Cabinet has declared a National State of Disaster in response to floods, which have wreaked havoc in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape.
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The decision follows a Cabinet special session held on Sunday night.
Addressing the nation on government’s response to catastrophic floods, which have devastated parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, President Cyril Ramaphosa noted that on 11 and 12 April 2022, parts of KwaZulu-Natal received between 200 and 400 millimetre of rainfall in a 24-hour period, which affected all parts of the province.
The entire eThekwini metro and the districts of iLembe, Ugu, King Cetshwayo and uMgungundlovu were reported as being the most affected by the floods.
“Heavy rainfall and flooding have also been experienced in the Eastern Cape, particularly in the districts of Alfred Nzo, Joe Gqabi and OR Tambo, where roads, bridges and houses have been extensively damaged, especially in the Port St Johns’ area,” President Ramaphosa said.
To date, 443 people are known to have lost their lives in KwaZulu-Natal, with approximately 48 people still missing or unaccounted for. One death has also been reported in the Eastern Cape Areas located close to rivers, waterways, particularly informal settlements, were severely affected, and many dwellings were swept away.
Meanwhile, almost 4 000 homes have been completely destroyed and over 8 300 homes have been partially damaged. It is also estimated that more than 40 000 people have been displaced by these floods.
The President described the floods as a humanitarian disaster that calls for a “massive and urgent relief effort.”
“The lives, health and well-being of thousands of people are still at risk. The floods have caused great economic and social damage,” the President said.
The Port of Durban, which is one of the largest and busiest shipping terminals on the continent and which is vital to the country’s economy – has also been severely affected.
Access to the port has been disrupted by extensive damaged to Bayhead Road, which links to the Durban Port Operations to the rest of the country. The route handles 13 000 heavy vehicles per day.
The President noted that the damage caused to businesses in the area have not been fully quantified, but assessments so far suggest that the eThekwini metro accounts for nearly half of all the reported damage.
President Ramaphosa also noted extensive damage to public infrastructure, including schools, health facilities, police stations and magistrates’ courts. It is estimated that over 270 000 learners have been affected and over 600 schools have been damaged.
“Sixteen of these schools cannot be accessed due to damage to connecting roads and bridges. We are saddened by the reports that a number of learners and at least one educator have died.
“Sixty-six public health care facilities have been affected, although there has been minimal disruption to health services in most affected districts,” President Ramaphosa said.
He added that extensive work is underway to restore basic services, including water, electricity, sanitation and waste removal to various areas in KwaZulu-Natal.
“These efforts are being hampered by to damage to main supply systems and the inaccessibility of some areas,” the President said.
He said that given the extent and impact of the floods, the designation of a provincial state of disaster is inadequate to deal with the scale of the emergency and the required reconstruction and rehabilitation measures and responses.
“The significance of the Port of Durban and related infrastructure for the effective operation of the country’s economy means that this disaster has implications far beyond the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“With the heavy rains and flooding in the Eastern Cape and indications from the South African Weather Service that the North West and Free State may also be affected by bad weather, it is clear that there are other areas of the country that need emergency intervention.
Last week President Ramaphosa, including a number of Ministers, accompanied by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala and MECs, as well as the Executive Mayor and councillors, visited several areas in the province.
During the visit, the President heard heart-breaking stories about children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents and neighbours being swept away as their homes crumbled under the pressure of the flood waters.
“Tonight, we are a nation united in our grief. We are a nation united in our determination to assist those who have lost their homes and possessions, and who are in desperate need of food, water and shelter.
“The rains of the last week have caused extensive damage to houses, businesses, roads, bridges and water, electricity, rail and telecommunications infrastructure. The flooding has disrupted fuel and food supplies,” the President said.
The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, will gazette the declaration of the State of Disaster. ■