Some parts of South Africa have experienced heavy down pours accompanied by heavy winds and excessively dangerous conditions as predicted by the South African weather Services. In some areas the rainfall was above normal and caused havoc and destruction in communities across the country, including destruction of property and loss of lives.
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) issued a watch on Sunday afternoon (for Monday, 09 Oct 2017) for severe thunderstorms in places over the eastern parts of North West, eastern parts of the Free State, northern and central parts of KwaZulu-Natal and in places in Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. This was upgraded to a warning on the afternoon of 09 Oct 2017 as thunderstorms moved into the affected provinces.
The SAWS indicates that the system that caused this weather has now moved to the east and most of the areas affected by the 09 October 2017 storms can now expect predominantly sunny weather. There is however still a warning for heavy rain over KwaZulu-Natal (where there is already reports of heavy rain and flooding in and around Durban) and eastern parts of the Eastern Cape before the weather system moves off the country later Tuesday, 10 October 2017.
Severe rainfall accompanied by thunderstorms which resulted in major flash flooding in some parts of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng Provinces has in some areas left a tale of destruction.
The rains negatively affected a number of households, both in formal and informal settlements. Bridge structures and roads have also been negatively affected causing entrapment of different vehicles along some major roads. Communities in some provinces were displaced, especially in informal areas.
The extent of damages in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng required the immediate activation of the Joint Operations Centres to coordinate and deal with response holistically. Due to the magnitude of the incidents, Disaster Management teams will continue to be on alert across the country, especially in areas where more rains are expected. The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) is in contact with provincial and local disaster management teams on the ground to monitor the situation and give support.
The storms have receded and now the Municipal and Provincial Disaster Management Teams are seized with the task of ensuring that communities members who are affected by the recent rains are taken to temporary shelters for their safety. Emergency services and mop up operations are on course to address emergency needs and to restore critical services.
The Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are the worst affected by the recent storms and rain. We have sadly lost 6 lives in KwaZulu Natal as a result of heavy rains that led to flooding in some areas. “We convey our heartfelt condolences to those who have lost their loved ones due to the current conditions, you are in our prayers”, said Minister van Rooyen.
Some dams and rivers have benefited from these rains as many are showing signs of increase in volumes. The South African Weather Services indicates that more rains are still expected on Saturday in some parts of our country. Therefore, the accumulative effect of these rains have undesirable consequences like flash flooding and the overflowing rivers, small and large dams alike and also affecting low lying areas and bridges. The relevant Departments like Water and Sanitation will maintain high vigilance looking at the dams and rivers in the affected provinces where rains will be continuing.
Since thunderstorms are expected to return to the country, the SAWS will continue to monitor further developments during this period and will issue subsequent updates as required.
“Government will continue to endeavour doing everything possible to assist communities, but we urge everyone to be extremely vigilant, especially in the coming days and beyond amid the heavy rains still expected”, said Minister van Rooyen.
Furthermore, the general public are urged to regularly follow weather forecasts on various media channels and platforms like television and radio. Updated information may also be accessed on www.weathersa.co.za as well as via the South African Weather Service Twitter account @SAWeatherService
The theme of the 2017 International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) to be held on 13 October 2017 becomes pertinent. The IDDR will be held under a theme: – “Reducing Exposure, Reducing Displacement: Home Safe Home”. There is certainly a need to work in a concerted effort to making our municipalities resilient and employing all necessary tools such as the SPLUMA, IUDF, etc.
COGTA Minister Des van Rooyen, as the head of the Disaster Management in South Africa, is through the National Disaster Management Centre, in close contact with Provincial teams in the affected provinces. Minister will visit some affected areas in KZN to assess the extent of damages and see the interventions on the ground. Working with all stakeholders, the teams will ensure that those affected are receiving the necessary assistance. After the visit, Minister will engage with various stakeholders working and assessing the damages and considering ways of bringing emergency relief to affected communities. The cost damage assessment to verify the cost of the damaged infrastructure will be conducted once all emergency intervention are finalised.
Communities that under threat or exposed to the flooding risks are urged to go to higher ground when flash flood warnings are issued. These responses should happen as quickly as possible as conditions have the potential to deteriorate faster in such conditions
The following tips are important for the public to follow:
a) People living in low-lying areas must take special care during storms, as sudden floods might affect them. They should monitor the rising water levels and evacuate the areas to a safer place or higher spot when the water level rises;
b) Do not cross through flooded roads or bridges – use other routes;
c) Avoid crossing low lying bridges, streams and rivers;
d) Never try to walk, swim or drive in swift-flowing water; even if the water is 15 cm deep, it can sweep you off your feet;
e) Motorist must be very careful and avoid driving through flooded areas;
f) Motorist must drive to and park at safer areas;
g) Public should monitor weather alerts through the radios and television;
h) Public should contact their municipal disaster management centres or the nearest police station or call the national emergency numbers (112, 10177 or 107) when faced with threats;
i) Teach your children about the dangers of floods;
j) Keep your important documents in a water-resistant containers;
k) Have emergency numbers at hand;
l) Be especially vigilant at night, when it is harder to recognise potentially deadly road hazards;
m) Do not camp or park your car along rivers or washes, especially during heavy rains or thunderstorms;
n) If you are on foot, be aware that low moving water can also be dangerous during flood conditions. If you come upon moving water, do not walk into it.; and
o) Where possible, communities are encouraged to try and avoid contact with any flood waters. The water may be contaminated with raw sewage, oil or other dangerous substances, and may also be charged with electricity from the fallen power-lines.
p) In some instances, communities are encouraged to stay indoors when heavy rains are continuing.
Government urges South Africans to continue use water sparingly and should not be deceived by the current downpours and think that drought is over. It is important to note that it will take a longer period for the country to recover fully from the severe drought and all the challenges it has brought with such as food shortages, lack of drinking water, death of livestock and others.
CoGTA Head of Communications
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