UPDATE ON WEATHER-RELATED INCIDENTS IN KZN
STATEMENT BY SIPHO HLOMUKA
KZN MEC FOR COGTA
DURBAN: 15 NOVEMBER 2019
Since we received the first notification of the imminent inclement weather conditions for KZN on Thursday morning, the state of preparedness and interventions required to respond to weather-related incidents moved into higher gear with all disaster management teams being placed on high alert to respond to all reported incidents speedily.
Initial weather forecast
Once on the ground, the teams have been responding to all incidents reported through KZN’s provincial disaster management protocols. The initial forecast from the South African Weather Service predicted adverse weather conditions. The initial weather forecast spoke of intense storms from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday with some relief predicted for Friday.
The entire province was classified as a red zone and the intensity of weather-related incidents was anticipated to be greater than in April 2019. We were advised of 150mm of rainfall, gale-force winds, mudslides/soil-erosion, and the risk of localised flooding.
The Provincial Government and municipalities accordingly elevated their preparations because everyone wanted to be fully prepared even for the worst. We drew a lot of lessons from the April floods which claimed 90 lives and left a trail of destruction in their wake. It was against this background that the Provincial Executive took unprecedented steps to prioritise the safety of citizens which included school children and civil servants being released early and private sector employers also being asked to release their employees early.
Our motivation was to be over-prepared rather than underprepared. We preferred to be safe than sorry. As the English saying goes: once bitten twice shy.
Late last night we received information from the South African Weather Service that the storm cell that was expected to cause major damage was downgraded, with the storm having unexpectedly moved out to the sea.
As a result, the situation was not as bad as it could have been. The preparations by the province and the municipalities appear to have succeeded in mitigating the anticipated impact of the storm. We are grateful for the leadership by Premier Sihle Zikalala and the Provincial Executive for all their proactive measures to save lives.
The number of fatalities in KZN has risen to 19 since 25 of October when the current records began. These fatalities include:
- four casualties of lightning strikes at Jozini,
- one casualty of a lightning strike at uMzimkhulu,
- four casualties of lightning strikes at uThukela,
- one casualty of a lightning strike at Ndwedwe,
- one casualty of a lightning strike at Maphumulo,
- one casualty of drowning at KwaDukuza,
- one casualty of drowning at Ulundi,
- two casualties of a collapsed walled due to heavy rain in eThekwini,
- two casualties of a tornado at uMshwathi,
- one casualty of a lightning strike at Msunduzi, and
- one casualty of a lightning strike at Ugu,
There are reports of three unaccounted persons across KZN. There are reports of other missing persons that are still being verified.
Yesterday, the uMfolozi River burst its banks and cut off several women farmers who were subsequently rescued and taken to safety. Last night, in eThekwini and specifically in Umlazi, KwaMashu and Chatsworth there had been localised flooding mainly due to blockages. There have also been reports of fallen trees and collapsed walls from across the province.
Even as water levels are now receding, the authorities warn that even a small amount of rain can still cause localised flooding as the soil remains saturated with water and the rivers and streams are close to capacity.
Disaster relief efforts
Disaster relief efforts are in full swing, especially in the hardest hit areas, such as New Hanover where a tornado struck on Tuesday.
In eThekwini, in Amaoti (Inanda), a total of 41 people sought refuge in a community hall as their dwellings became uninhabitable due to floods. Local halls are also being used to temporarily house those affected by the tornado.
The relief efforts have been shared among the Provincial Government and municipalities and various NGOs and churches. Social Development has been providing psycho-social counselling on the ground. Health has been attending to medical emergencies. SASSA has been providing food parcels. Home Affairs has been issuing ID documents to those who lost them in disaster-related incidents. Human Settlements, together with municipalities, is conducting assessments of damages.
Collectively, we are mounting a response offensive to ensure that all affected communities are attended to and our teams and partners are hard at work on the ground in this regard.
Assessment and quantification of damages
We have teams that we have deployed to the affected areas to assess damages so that these can be quantified and a comprehensive report will be presented by KZN Cogta to the Provincial Executive chaired by the Premier. There is a sense of urgency in compiling this report because we would not wish to prolong the suffering in affected communities as a caring government.
Weather forecast for the coming days
While we have been spared from the worst so far, the latest weather forecast is as follows:
Today: Widespread showers to occur mainly along the coast and adjacent interior, especially along the north coast. Because of the significant rain that these have already received, any amount of new rain can also result in localised flooding.
Tomorrow: Onshore flow will continue along the south coast from the morning, spreading to the south east coast later on in the afternoon. The disaster teams will remain on alert and fully operational until further notice.
We would like to commend the bravery and selflessness of our teams on the ground from across different sectors including the provincial and local governments, the private sector, various NGOs and faith-based organisations as well as volunteers. These organisations and individuals have risked their own lives in trying save the lives of others. We would also like to thank the media for their timeous reporting of weather advisories for the public.
We must acknowledge that the previously known weather patterns have changed beyond recognition and will continue to change going forward. We have witnessed how previously inconceivable phenomena and weather behaviours have become unpredictable to the extent that we can no longer abide by the conventional methods.
As the province of KZN, we are at the forefront of climate change which is redefining conventional science and traditional responses to disasters. We will continue to bolster our education and public awareness efforts as we near the summer season which is, historically, the most active season in terms of storms, lightning, and most recently tornadoes.
We are learning to expect the unexpected. And we are committed to ever greater preparedness!
For more information contact: KZN Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso, 082 884 2403; or Senzelwe Mzila 082 474 1882