SAAF assists Overberg communities following Cape floods

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A South African Air Force (SAAF) BK 117 helicopter from 15 Squadron last month assisted flood-stricken communities in the Overberg region of the Western Cape after heavy flooding left many towns cut off from the outside world.

Homes were flooded, bridges and roads were washed away and an estimated R1.4 billion in agricultural losses were inflicted in the Overberg by heavy rains over the weekend of 23-24 September. Several people died when their car was washed over a bridge.

Air Force Base (AFB) Overberg, according to Lieutenant Eleas Martin Koopman, played a vital role in saving lives and assisted in humanitarian relief efforts in partnership with local disaster management authorities.

Due to roads being closed and certain farming communities becoming inaccessible, Cape Agulhas Municipality Mayor Paul Swart called on the Officer Commanding Air Force Base Overberg, Colonel Donovan Chetty, to step in. Chetty requested Joint Operations Western Cape for authorisation to use a BK 117 that was stopped over at AFB Overberg whilst en route from Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) to Saldanha for the air show that was subsequently held there on 30 September. The 15 Squadron aircraft was subsequently put to use from 27 September.

“Communication was hampered due to various installations being without power but upon arrival, the aircraft was immediately tasked to assist with transportation of batteries and fuel for various telecommunication installations on the mountain,” Koopman reported. “By 19H30, the aircraft landed safely at Air Force Base Overberg and communication was restored, which was crucial for coordinating rescue/support operations.”

Manning the Base Operations room, Major Liza van der Westhuizen in partnership with the Overberg Disaster Management Team deployed the BK 117 and disaster management personnel to various areas, including Springfield Farm, Renosterkop and Bergplaas. They delivered food supplies, water and medical supplies.

“The strong relationship between the Air Force and the Municipality has been instrumental in saving the lives and properties of the people in Overberg,” Koopman reported for the SAAF. In the aftermath of the flooding, Air Force Base Overberg provided volunteers and donated food parcels to the local Nutrition Centre Feeding Scheme in Bredasdorp, which assisted those affected by the floods.