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State of disaster declared in two SA provinces

The government has declared a state of disaster in the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa. This is following the heavy rains these regions experienced in April this year.

Declaration

Heavy rains resulted in death, damage to property, infrastructure, and the environment, and disruption of basic services, according to Business Tech. Accordingly Dr Bongani Elias Sithole, the Head of the National Disaster Management Centre, declared a provincial disaster in the Free State and in KwaZulu-Natal. The government published the declaration in the Government Gazette (Staatskoerant) of 27 May 2024. Here is an extract from the official government publication:

“I, Dr Bongani Elias Sithole, in my capacity as the Head of the National Disaster Management Centre, after having deliberations with various organs of state and the [Free State/KwaZulu-Natal] Provincial Disaster Management Centre, and after assessing the magnitude and severity of the impact of severe weather accompanied by disruptive rains … I hereby give notice that … in terms of Section 23(1)(b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 … I classified this occurrence as a Provincial Disaster.”

SA Government Gazette (Staatskoerant)

Damages

Heavy rains in KwaZulu-Natal

Heavy rains and gale-force winds in April battered KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast causing widespread flooding. The extreme weather hit Margate and Uvongo particularly hard. Emergency services had to go into these areas to try to assist in the situation.

Additionally, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) activated disaster response teams across affected municipalities. Many residents had to seek shelter in community halls and other public facilities. People posted many videos online showing flooded homes and businesses, and motorists struggling on flooded roads.

Free State’s storms

The heavy rains in April this year caused severe damage to several schools in Kroonstad in the Free State. The N1 highway outside Kroonstad was flooded as well as the R34 road between Welkom and Kroonstad. A 50-year-old man lost his life due to the heavy rains causing rain water to sweep away his vehicle at a low bridge.

Sowetan Live reported that a brave 30-year-old woman, Nthabiseng Hoopster, rescued two people trapped inside a car. The car was stuck under a flooded bridge after heavy rains in Kroonstad. She noticed that there was a car, a BMW, stuck under Maokeng Subway bridge and went to the vehicle to assist the people trapped inside.

Dika Kheswa, spokesperson for Moqhaka municipality disaster management, said the heavy storm damaged about 120 houses.

“We experienced damage to infrastructure, our drainage system, houses had roofs blown away and some houses were left without electricity. We received about 500 complaints.”

Dika Kheswa, spokesperson for Moqhaka municipality disaster management

What does a ‘state of disaster’ mean exactly?

As stated in the declaration by Dr Sithole, the occurrence has been classified as a provincial disaster. Therefore, the primary responsibility to coordinate and manage it, falls to the Provincial Executive. Sithole called upon organs of state to enhance their support to existing structures in order to implement contingency plans and ensure that the Provincial Executive can effectively address the impacts of this disaster. Additionally, all affected organs of state must prepare and submit reports to the Provincial Disaster Management Centre.

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