'Get ready for more storms'

2009-01-06 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL may be hit by another bout of freak storms as early as Friday this week. This dire warning was made at a provincial government press briefing in the city yesterday, as government was still mopping up after last Saturday’s storm and counting the cost in terms of deaths and damages.

Environment MEC Mtholephi Mthimkhulu appealed for all KZN residents to be on high alert.

He said environmental scientists in his department who are in contact with the weather bureau have predicted the possibility of more storms.

He said the scientists have explained that the unusual weather in the province is due to global warming and climate change. His department plans to work on a massive awareness programme around these issues.

The warning came shortly after Premier S’bu Ndebele gave details of the devastation wreaked by the last storm. Ndebele also voiced his concern on the looming threat and called on residents to do what they can to make themselves safe, such as stocking up on canned foods.

The premier said the official death toll stood at 16 and the latest confirmed death was that of a councillor in the uMtshezi Municipality. November Elliot Mbambo died after his car was washed away during the torrential rains.

According to Ndebele, at the last count the storm affected some 4 017 households of 12 736 people. A further 83 people lost their homes completely. The estimated cost of damages so far is in the region of R108 million, but this is a conservative figure as a full tally has yet to be completed.

Education MEC Ina Cronje said they are still assessing the full damage to schools. She added, however, that when pupils return on January 21, teaching will take place, despite damage to schools and that contingency plans will be made. Cronje said repairs to damaged schools will have to come from the budget for new classrooms. The areas affected were all municipalities within the uMgungundlovu District, eThekwini Municipality, iLembe, Sisonke and uMzinyathi District municipalities.

The premier said that since the first freak storms in early December, the provincial government has been working round the clock.

“We have established joint operation centres in all the affected areas, which comprise all government departments needed to intervene in situations of this nature. These centres operate under the supervision of the provincial disaster management centre.”

Ndebele added that they have assisted families with food and blankets, helped them bury loved ones, provided medical care and helped reconstruct houses and repair infrastructure.

However, he said in all his visits to the devastated areas what touched him most was how young people and neighbours were helping each other through the tragedy.

Ndebele thanked the residents of the province — the law enforcement agencies, good Samaritans and ordinary people — who rallied around to rescue victims or dug deep in their pockets to offer relief to the affected families.

He appealed for communities to continue with their generosity. Donations in kind can be dropped off at the joint operation centre, 115 Jabu Ndlovu Street (on the ground floor) or phone 033 897 5670 for more details.

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