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Windhoek Heavy Rain Damages Flats, Floods Businesses

By: Hertha Ekandjo

The Namibian Society of Engineers (NASE) blames improper engineering planning in the country for the damage that has been done to flats in Windhoek, as the city was flooded on Wednesday after short heavy downpours.

Streets were flooded where cars were being swept away by the moving water after a downpour which began on Wednesday afternoon.

While the full extent of the damages could not be established at the time of publication, a number of flats in Windhoek had been damaged, with some having roofs nearly completely ripped off.

Floods in January 2021 saw similar damages done to property across the city where fingers were also pointing at engineers and city planners.

“To be honest with you, what I have seen  is definitely an engineering planning problem. So, there are no two ways about it,” said Charles Mukwaso, NASE president.

Mukwaso encouraged Namibian engineers to do better. “I know that a lot of owners of these buildings are going to do investigations, then we will assist where we can.”

He said when engineers are working on an engineering project, they normally do technical surveys, geotechnical investigations and many other steps before heading into the real work.

The basic rule of engineering is that engineers are supposed to design for the worst-case scenario, he added.

“This is for every engineer to imagine the worst, by starting to look at the environment in which you are going to set up the building. So, you are supposed to foresee most of these things,” he explained.

He said constructors should have planned for such a scenario “because there is a reason why engineers do surveys before beginning with construction.”

Mukwaso said surveys are done in the first place in order for them to be able to project things, to foresee what might happen in the future.

The floods also led to the flooding of Wernhil mall in the CBD, leading to the complete closure of its lower floor after water got into the shops.

The whole ground floor of Wernhil mall was flooded, leaving the shops with no choice but to shut their doors during operating hours in the midst of the rain hoping to keep their stock safe.

However, the water force overpowered the doors of the shops and forced its way into every store located on the ground floor of the mall, at the same time causing destruction to properties such as furniture, electric appliances, food products and clothing.

Ohlthaver and List (O&L) in a statement on Thursday said that while the full extent of the damage could not yet be established, the flooding in the mall happened as a result of the stormwater system being unable to handle the pressure of the water-flow.

“Just behind Wernhil, there is an entire canal through which the bulk of the CBD’s stormwater is channelled and it is believed that the flooding was caused when the stormwater system could not handle the pressure of the water-flow. At this stage it is not possible to give accurate verified figures in relation to the full extent of the infrastructure damage. We have managed to evacuate all shoppers and tenants on the ground floor of the mall. Thankfully, no serious injuries have been reported. As stated, the damage will only be determined after a full assessment and verification,” O&L spokesperson Roux-ché Locke said.

The Group’s executive chairman Sven Thieme told The Villager that they did not have enough indications yet on the damages, but already made progress to clean up and dry out the place.

“Of course, on the upper levels of the mall, we are trading and we will see how we will clean up one shop after the other,” Thieme said.

He said they have engaged all their tenants on the issue and would put in much work to make sure that all stores are back to operations.”We will try to open up store by store, and we are looking forward to doing that as soon as possible.”

Quizzed on who would be liable to the damages done to products, Thieme said there is no one to blame at the moment as this was caused by nature.

City of Windhoek spokesperson Harold Akwenye told The Villager that the city’s town planning was properly done and had no fault leading to the flooding at the mall, saying this was the very first incident to occur with the mall ending up flooded.

“The rains of yesterday were unprecedented; it has never happened before. When it comes to the draining system, the capacity of it was stretched, nearly because of the flash floods that were unprecedented and this is the very first time that this is happening,” Akwenye said.

On Wednesday the Windhoek recorded up to 88mm and 100mm in some areas.

Hertha Ekandjo

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