Town Recovers from Disaster

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By Surihe Gaomas MARIENTAL The vibrant town of Mariental, also known as ‘Stofbakkies’ (Dustpans), this week became muddy and water -clogged. However, the town’s central business district has slowly but surely come to grips with the floods and started to gradually recover. What the town lost in the floods became a loss for the entire nation. Sweeping the muddy front floor area of her takeaway shop in the main street of Hendrick Witbooi Avenue, Marie Neels was dismayed by the destruction of her store. Everything she owned and her only source of income was destroyed. “Look, look,” she said pointing continuously. “The whole freezer is muddy, the cupboards floated in the water as well as the entire table and chairs are damaged, what a mess indeed,” added the businesswoman. She started off small four years ago until she became the proud owner of a vibrant business right in the centre of town. “I understand I now have to pay a lot of money before I can claim,” said Neels, looking around frantically and holding her head in despair. Young children could be seen outside her shop trying to salvage soft drinks. The water was so deep that it flowed at least a metre into her shop causing havoc and destruction. Similarly, just a few meters away Ziyaad Fabrics, a material store, suffered losses. The manager Hendrick Lukas cited approximately N$10 000 damage to his business. Most of the African designed materials which he acquired at a costly price hang on the fence outside drenched with mud. “In 2002, the floods were not that bad. You could actually only see it flowing in the streets. Now, this time around, it forced open a closed door and swept right inside causing the racks to fall and spoiling my goods,” said Lukas. But as much as the floods have inflicted so much damage and harm, life must go on after another tragic event. The sight of life going back to normal was conspicuous yesterday. “What can we do, the damage is done, but we now have to think about tomorrow,” said a trader across the street selling his different wares. While everybody thought the banks would be closed due to the effects of the floods, it was business as usual at both Standard Bank and Bank Windhoek yesterday. There customers were able to get their much needed month-end salaries. Earlier that day, a damaged Standard Bank ATM machine was removed and replaced with a new one. Wim Lotter, the bank’s area manager, had come the previous day and worked with his technicians around the clock to get the replacement ready on time. “We came from Windhoek to ensure that the bank’s operations run smoothly here,” said Lotter. Outside the bank, one could still see workers removing the muddied blue carpets onto a bakkie. At other businesses, broken glass could be seen scattered on the pavement, as passers-by stepped cautiously on their way to different destinations. An uprooted tree lies in one yard as evidence of the flood’s traumatic after-effects. Earlier, getting petrol was a problem. That is no longer the case. At the BP filling station, workers are busy clearing up the area, with some children jumping in to help sweep the kerb. Owner of the filling station Andre van Schalkwyk said damages amounted to N$1,4-million – the highest in the history of the four floods experienced by the business. However, Van Schalkwyk was optimistic that the business would be operational around the afternoon already. “We’ll have petrol pumping already as from 14:00 and it’s back to business as usual,” said the man looking rather resigned to his fate. Although on the surface it may seem that people are coming to grips with getting their lives back to normal, the difficulties of a blocked sewerage system, lack of electricity and some damaged telephone lines cutting off some areas from communication are the main areas needing attention.