Msinga, Umvoti not declared disaster areas, after premier’s visit

2012-01-04 00:00

WHILE the KwaZulu-Natal department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has said that the storm battered Msinga and Umvoti areas in the midlands will not be declared disaster areas, the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) said their main concern was potential despon­dency among farmers who had been hard hit.

Kwanalu CEO Sandy la Marque, told The Witness that, from previous experience, aid to affected areas was slow to materialise and that farmers lose heart.

“Aid sometimes takes between three and five years to reach the far­mers. And by this time they [farmers] put other plans in place to move on. In the past they have become really disillusioned with the Department of Agriculture, and we would like to prevent that,” said La Marque.

She added that damage assessments have not yet been made, but would be done as soon as the Agriculture Department is fully operational after the festive season.

Cogta media liaison officer Lennox Mabaso said the decision not to declare the areas a disaster area was taken after a visit to the area by premier Zweli Mkhize and other members of parliament.

Accompanying Mkhize on the visit was the Minister for Human Settlements, Ravi Pillay, and the MEC for Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation, Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetla.

“There are no immediate plans to declare the area a disaster area. The visit by the premier and the other ministers on Monday was to assess the extent of the damage and to see how we could address the problems that were presented,” said Mabaso.

He added that the premier would be organising the relief effort and formulating a comprehensive response to the tragic circumstances.

“Government’s priority is for the departments to work together to provide a plan that will mitigate the impact of the devastation caused by the storm,” he said.

Head of the disaster management centre of the Umzinyathi Municipality, Mzwandile Hadebe, said significant support had been received from various government departments as well as essential services, and that all stakeholders are working hard to provide relief to affected families.

“The recovery efforts from the disaster are progressing well, but are facing challenges. The South African Police Services (SAPS) have recovered three bodies today which were unidentified, so the final account of the number of deaths is still unknown.

“Because of the level of damage, access to the area is limited, so air support from Emergency Medical Rescue Services is the only way to access the area,” said Hadebe.

Lieutenant Jack Haskins from the SAPS K9 Search and Rescue Unit said that no further bodies had been found and that yesterday’s efforts had to be cut short because of deteriorating weather conditions.

“Access to the area is getting worse by the day and it will become more challenging as the days progress,” said Haskins.

Hadebe added that final costs of the relief efforts are still unknown, but up to date it has cost the municipality an estimated one million rand.

He warned that this number is likely to increase as relief efforts gain momentum.

A number of insurance companies have confirmed that they have received reports of household damage and vehicle damage resulting from the storm. Only one panelbeater, Raven Panelbeaters, confirmed that they are working on a car which has extensive hail damage resulting from the storm. Other panelbeaters said that they have not received any cases as yet, but are expecting to receive some during the course of the week.

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