Skeletal remains of dead animals litter South African town as worst drought in a century kills thousands of sheep – The US Sun

ASTONISHING pictures show skeleton remains of animals and cracked earth after a South African desert suffered its worst drought in more than a century.

The Karoo region has always been parched – it means land of thirst in the language of its earliest inhabitants, the Khoisan hunter gatherers.

 The skeleton of a dead goat lies in the veld on a farm near drought-stricken Graaff-Reinet

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The skeleton of a dead goat lies in the veld on a farm near drought-stricken Graaff-ReinetCredit: Reuters
 Cracks are seen in the dried up municipal dam in the region

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Cracks are seen in the dried up municipal dam in the regionCredit: Reuters

Yet nothing prepared residents of its oldest town, Graaff-Reinet, for the recent drought.

As the dry spell entered its fourth year, tap water turned brown and smells like rotting fish.

When the water behind the Nqweba Dam dried up, depositing tens of thousands of dead fish onto cracked earth, queues began forming at municipal bore holes and farm animals died in their hundreds.

The bleak choices facing millions of people in drought-stricken southern Africa – whether to flush toilets or not, or to keep animals alive or let them die – could soon be faced by other places on a warming planet with shrinking water supplies.

“This area is dry but our taps have never been completely empty. Never,” said Bukelwa Booysen, who has had to send staff in search of borehole water for her school for disabled children.

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The teacher has to send the kids home when they can’t find any.

An abnormally hot summer with rainfall 75 per cent below average, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has struck the whole region.

The United Nations says 45 million people in southern Africa face hunger.

 A doll's head lies amongst piles of dead fish collected from the dried up municipal dam in drought-stricken Graaff-Reinet

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A doll’s head lies amongst piles of dead fish collected from the dried up municipal dam in drought-stricken Graaff-ReinetCredit: Reuters
 A dead sheep rots under the baking sun in the region which has suffered its worst drought in nearly a century

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A dead sheep rots under the baking sun in the region which has suffered its worst drought in nearly a centuryCredit: Reuters
 Farmer Gerrie Snyman stands over a dead lamb on his farm

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Farmer Gerrie Snyman stands over a dead lamb on his farmCredit: Reuters
 Community members queue as they await the distribution of bottled drinking water by a charity

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Community members queue as they await the distribution of bottled drinking water by a charityCredit: Reuters
 Lines mark the fallen water levels on the wall of the dried up municipal dam

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Lines mark the fallen water levels on the wall of the dried up municipal damCredit: Reuters

Bushes and trees clinging to the Karoo’s rocky ravines are withered and grey – even hardy acacia thorns are dying. Signs mark rivers that are now dry beds.

At one farm, Gerrie Snyman, 65, was feeding grain to sheep and goats that couldn’t find pasture.

More than a third of his couple-thousand goats and sheep had either died or been sold this year. His 80 cows were now 15.

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He loaded a calf that was starving – its mother had stopped producing milk – onto his truck to take home and shoot.

A friend had shot himself dead after his animals died of thirst.

“We are grateful to the Almighty for our borehole water,” he said. “We don’t know what we’ll do when it runs out.”

When Cape Town’s reservoir nearly ran dry 18 months ago, it made international headlines and authorities rationed water.

Yet Karoo is long past water rationing.

For Valentia Esho, 45, an unemployed mother of seven in the township of Umazisakhe, it means letting her toilet fill up instead of flushing, never washing clothes and only washing plates that stink.

“The house is really smelling,” she said, inside her one-room brick-and-tin home. “Everyone is paining from stomach aches and diarrhoea.”

In another township, Asherville, where wind kicked up dust devils, school headmaster Basil Vaaltyn was overseeing water distribution from a truck.

He’d done everything to cut down on his usage: “I’m down to a minute showering instead of two.”

His wife saves dirty dishwater to fill the cistern.

A spokesman for the municipality said it was drilling boreholes, installing pipelines and building an 18-million-litre reservoir, adding: “Usage of water is still very high.

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“The community is requested to use water sparingly.”

 Hydrologist Gideon Groenewald feels cracks in the clay in the dried up municipal dam

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Hydrologist Gideon Groenewald feels cracks in the clay in the dried up municipal damCredit: Reuters
 Township residents collect water from a municipal water tanker

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Township residents collect water from a municipal water tankerCredit: Reuters
 A local man attaches a hose to a borehole pipe as he fills up a water tanker to bring relief to township residents

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A local man attaches a hose to a borehole pipe as he fills up a water tanker to bring relief to township residentsCredit: Reuters

With municipal authorities overwhelmed, South African charity Gift of the Givers is trucking water to townships and drilling boreholes.

Gideon Groenewald, a geohydrologist for the charity, uses science and spirituality to look for groundwater.

When he was growing up on a farm, he used to dowse with wet twigs. Nowadays he prefers magnetic detectors.

“I open Google maps and look for the lines of trees. I ask God in prayer which lines hold water, then I go down to that GPS location,” he said while a forked stick turned in his hand over an arid patch of shrubs.

“You see the stick moving where the magnetic field is? There’s water here,” he continued. “It’s pure science.”

The charity has drilled 1,800 boreholes in the past three years, Groenewald said, only a third of them dry.

 Children play as caked clay is seen in the dried up dam

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Children play as caked clay is seen in the dried up damCredit: Reuters
 Women pray for rain during an inter-denominational service

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Women pray for rain during an inter-denominational serviceCredit: Reuters

But Louise Stafford, water director for the Nature Conservancy in South Africa, urged caution with boreholes, because groundwater is a finite resource.

Water-intensive agriculture like citrus farms can make droughts worse, she said, and leaky pipes are losing a billion litres a year.

These are problems Water Minister Lindiwe Sisulu pledged to tackle in a new water masterplan she delivered on Thursday.

One Sunday, as clouds formed over Graaff-Reinet, its Assembly Church prayed. The clouds spat but didn’t pour.

“We pray for God to open heaven and send rain,” Pastor Dolan Cochrane said.

The congregation bowed.

“Lord,” Cochrane continued. “We know that, in your time, you will come to our rescue.”


View more information: https://www.the-sun.com/news/107103/skeletal-remains-of-dead-animals-litter-south-african-town-as-worst-drought-in-a-century-kills-thousands-of-sheep/

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