Girl’s drowning sparks water riot in thirsty South African township

By Mfuneko Toyana

QWAQWA, South Africa (Reuters) – Eight-year-old Musa and her older sister Moleboheng trudged down the ravine with buckets and drum bottles to fetch water from a filthy stream because they were thirsty and tired of waiting for trucks meant to deliver emergency water that never showed up.

But Musa never returned, her mother Phindile Mbele recalled, choking back tears. The little girl drowned in the stream, which is thick with sewage, mud and algae, probably pulled down by a strong underwater current.

“We rushed down there. She was still under the water… Two boys from the neighborhood went in and one carried her out,” Mbele said. “The house is empty without her. She was such a sweet, quiet child”.

Musa’s death last month further enflamed the mood among residents of Mandela Park township on the edge of Qwaqwa in South Africa, turning intermittent protests over water shortages into a full-blown, week-long riot.

Protesters torched shops, overturned government vehicles and hurled bricks and bottles at riot police who responded with rubber bullets.

South Africans have protested for years over unreliable supplies of water and power, but chronic mismanagement has been compounded by the effects of last year’s drought, the worst in a century, which has been linked to climate change.

“It rains here all the time but they say there’s drought. Then how did that little girl drown because that stream was full?” said Malgas “Skinny” John, 39, who used rocks and burning tyres during the January riot to barricade the road leading into Qwaqwa in a face-off with police.

“We have to strike and burn things, only then do we get water,” said the unemployed father of two, as he queued with neighbors to fill his container from a water truck.

Locals, some wearing an African National Congress (ANC) t-shirt, stand in the queue for water at Marakong village, in the Free State province, South Africa, February 5, 2020. Picture taken February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

“We’ll do it again, we’ll keep burning things if we have to,” John added.

Officials fear riots like the one seen at Qwaqwa could be a sign of worsening climate-linked instability to come, as dams and water pipes deteriorate further and the urban population continues to mushroom.

South Africa’s water minister Lindiwe Sisulu has promised 3 billion rand ($203 million) to end the shortages in Qwaqwa. Its municipality owes half a billion rand for water, out of a national unpaid bill of nearly 9 billion rand.

But even Sisulu’s own department has a 3.5 billion rand shortfall in maintenance funds, which it says risks a “detrimental impact on the national economy”, especially if water supplies to the thirsty power utility Eskom and liquid fuel maker Sasol are disrupted.

“We’ve been drinking this brown, filthy water since 2016,” said little Musa’s mother Mbele.

“Nothing will change. I know, soon, I will have to go the same stream where my daughter died to get water.”

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

Flooding expected to worsen in Carolinas after Florence’s departure

Emergency personnel and local media drive through flooded streets to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Florence, in Spring Lake, North Carolina, September 17, 2018. Spc. Austin T. Boucher/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS

By Anna Mehler Paperny

KINSTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Flooding from rain-swollen rivers was expected to worsen across the Carolinas on Thursday and the next couple of days in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, which killed 36 people in three states, forecasters said.

Twenty flood gauges showed some level of flooding in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, where some major waterways, well above their flood stages, were expected to rise through the weekend before they crest, the National Weather Service said.

“People in flood prone areas or near waterways need to remain alert as rivers crest and stay above their banks in coming days,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said in a written statement. “Stay alert and stay safe.”

Touring the area on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump warned South Carolina that “water is coming your way.”

“Now it looks nice but it’s really the calm before the storm,” he said.

Florence dumped up to 36 inches (91 cm) of rain on parts of North Carolina and many areas remained cut off by floodwaters and inundated roads. The slow-moving storm made landfall on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane.

In Lenoir County, North Carolina, where the rising Neuse River has flooded some roads, emergency medical workers have been running a “mobile disaster hospital,” which provides urgent care to residents cut off from the nearest hospital.

Tripp Winslow, medical director of North Carolina Emergency Medical Services, helped set up the mobile emergency room during a downpour on Saturday night. They have received 20 to 30 patients a day so far, he said, but expect to be busier as the river crests.

“Once we get isolated we expect to see more,” he said. “No pun intended, it’s a fluid situation.”

Members of the National Guard work on a long sand bag flood barrier being built by the South Carolina Department of Transportation on U.S. 501 to lesson damage to roads anticipated from floods caused by Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, in Conway, South Carolina, U.S. September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Members of the National Guard work on a long sand bag flood barrier being built by the South Carolina Department of Transportation on U.S. 501 to lesson damage to roads anticipated from floods caused by Hurricane Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, in Conway, South Carolina, U.S. September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

MANY STILL WITHOUT POWER

At least 36 deaths have been attributed to the storm, including 27 in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and one in Virginia.

Some 2,600 people had been rescued by boat or helicopter in North Carolina alone since the storm made landfall, and about 10,000 people remain in shelters, according to state officials.

More than 121,000 customers were without power across North Carolina, and more than 2.1 million customers across the southeast United States were affected by the storm, according to utilities.

Duke Energy Corp started to return its Brunswick nuclear power plant in North Carolina to service on Thursday. The company shut both reactors at the 1,870-megawatt facility before Florence hit the coast near the plant in Southport, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Wilmington.

One megawatt can power about 1,000 U.S. homes.

As floodwaters continue to rise, concerns are growing about the environmental and health dangers lurking in the water.

The flooding has caused 21 hog “lagoons,” which store manure from pig farms, to overflow, creating a risk that standing water will be contaminated, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. North Carolina is one of the leading hog-producing states in the country.

Several sewer systems in the region also have released untreated or partly treated sewage and storm water into waterways over the last week, local media reported.

Experts have said that climate change has increased the likelihood of more massive, sluggish storms like Florence, capable of dropping record amounts of rain and touching off catastrophic flooding.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Kinston, North Carolina; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Conway, South Carolina, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, and Scott DiSavino in New York; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Larry King and Bill Trott)

Texas City Recycling Sewage For Drinking Water

The city of Wichita Falls, Texas, is still in the middle of exceptional drought conditions and looking at a drastic measure to provide water to their residents.

The city is in the process of testing a plan that would take water from the city’s wastewater plant and pipe it directly to the water treatment plant.  The water would be given “extra cleaning” and then placed into the water system for consumption by residents.

The plan should put five million gallons of water into the system if everything works as planned and the system is approved by the state.  The city’s water usage, which has fallen from 50 million gallons of water a day to 12 million a day through conservation efforts, would need cut further without the additional water.

The city’s main water source for the town, Lake Arrowhead, is only at 27 percent capacity.  Boat docks in the lake are so far from the water’s edge that they stand 10 to 15 feet above water level.

Residents told CBS that while they’re not necessarily excited about the idea of using toilet water for drinking, but it’s better than not having any water.

Human Waste Flooding Into New York Harbor

Superstorm Sandy struck October 29th and since that day billions of gallons of untreated human waste has flowed into New York Harbor.

A 12-foot storm surge overcame the Newark sewage plant that serves over three million people. It’s the fifth largest sewage treatment facility in the United States. The damage from the surge has resulted in untreated and partially treated human waste flooding into the Harbor close to the Statue of Liberty. Continue reading