A ferocious storm killed eight
people as it pummelled South Africa’s west coast on Wednesday, forcing
the closure of Cape Town harbour, triggering flash floods and causing
extensive damage, authorities said. The weather
system which struck on Tuesday has damaged buildings, felled trees, left
46,000 homes without electricity and caused travel chaos as flights and
rail services were hit by gale-force winds and flooding.

Three
people were killed in the Eden District municipality, an area popular
with tourists east of Cape Town, while four others died in a fire
sparked by lightning, said James Brent-Styan, spokesman for the Western
Cape regional government.

One other person was killed when a building collapsed.

The
South African Weather Service warned that strong gale force winds were
expected over the Western Cape and western parts of the Northern Cape
region until Thursday. Waves of up to 12 metres high are expected to
lash the Cape peninsula until Friday.

“Heavy
rain and flash flooding are expected (across) the western parts of the
Western Cape… on Wednesday into Thursday morning,”
the weather service added.

The severe weather, dubbed “the cape storm”
and thought to be one of the worst for 30 years, has left dozens of
people in shantytowns around Cape Town homeless — as well as forcing
schools and universities to close.

The Khayelitsha
township, a vast encampment of tightly-packed shacks just outside Cape
Town, was reported to be totally deserted except for a handful of
children and suffered severe flooding. Elsewhere in the region high
winds fanned forest fires, causing damage to homes and property.

The
extreme weather follows one of the worst droughts for 100 years that
has gripped the region and led to crippling water shortages.

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