Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille says her department has received requests to build 28 bridges in four districts of KwaZulu-Natal following the devastating floods which claimed at least 400 lives, last month.
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster after the floods along the country’s eastern coast.
De Lille says the requests for these bridges are in addition to more than R400 million that has been budgeted to build 24 steel bridges in the province.
This is part of a project to speed up the building of bridges in rural areas to provide people with safe access to schools, clinics, and workplaces.
De Lille has handed over a steel bridge that has been built across the Nsimbakazi stream to people of the Emasangweni area near Empangeni in the north of KwaZulu-Natal.
It is part of the Welisizwe rural bridge programme. It replaces a low water bridge that was washed away in floods at the beginning of the year.
Last month, over 400 people died in floods in the province, which also left more than 100 000 homeless, and washed away roads and bridges.
Zanele Ngema and Mbalenhle Biyela, who live in the Emasangweni area, say crossing the river during heavy rain was risky.
“We used to have a huge problem when it was raining. We had a low-lying bridge. When it rained we will no longer have a problem of not being able to cross the river. We have another low-lying bridge that was washed away during the floods in the Mkhwakhwini area. We would appreciate it if that bridge can also be constructed. Teachers will also be able to come to school even if it’s raining. Community members will also be able to cross when they are going to town.”
De Lille says these steel bridges also known as Bailey bridges will speed up the provision of safe access to schools, clinics, and places of work.
“We had budgeted for 18 for the current financial year and then another 6 has been added by MEC Sibiya which the province will be funding. We got funding for 24 bridges, as you know president Ramaphosa has announced several contributions towards the flood relief which is R1 billion and so we are going to apply to the fund for assistance to build more bridges because we have to have these bridges built before the next floods come.”
De Lille says they have received requests for another 28 bridges to be built in four districts due to the infrastructure damage caused by the floods last month.
“We have got money for 24 bridges. We need another 28 bridges and then we have to apply to treasury, to be considered. It is not given that we will get all the money because. There is also money needed to rebuild the schools. Government has also more than 50 government buildings that need to be restored, renovated and repaired. So, it’s up to treasury what they will allocate to us to build more bridges.”
Meanwhile, Defence Minister, Thandi Modise speaking at the bridge handover, said that the SANDF will help build bridges to replace infrastructure that was destroyed in the floods.
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