Storms affect 20,000 people in Cape Town

More than 20,000 residents in 63 informal settlements in the South African port city of Cape Town have been affected by severe winter storms.

Charlotte Powell, spokesperson for the city's Disaster Risk Management department, told IRIN: "The whole environment is wet."

She said the city had established six emergency shelters to provide hot meals and disburse humanitarian assistance, such as blankets, non-perishable foods and baby formula, after an appeal to Cape Town's residents for donations.

Unlike much of South Africa, Cape Town experiences its main rainfall during the winter months from May to September, while rapid urbanization has resulted in the establishment of informal settlements on land that is often unsuitable.

Powell said people arriving in the city during the summer months, when rainfall is low, were often not aware until the winter months that they had built rudimentary shelters on water courses or wetlands, which were prone to flooding.

The weather forecast for the next few days is that the rain will stop, followed by clear skies and low temperatures.