Plans in place for Western Cape winter disasters - officials

2016-04-13 18:20
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Cape Town – No one can fully prepare for a disaster, but plans are in place for what winter may bring, Western Cape officials told the provincial standing committee on local government on Wednesday.

"Anybody who asks me if I am ready for any disaster, I would say no. We saw how the Americans felt [with Hurricane] Katrina," said disaster management and fire and rescue chief director Colin Deiner.

He said the best they could do was to make sure disaster centres were prepared to minimise the magnitude of an event. They also had to put enough resources in place to respond.

Up to 80% of their work was about planning.

"If any disaster had to happen, we would manage. We have got plans to be able to deal with them," he said.

Jackie Pandaram, operations director at provincial disaster management, also confirmed contingency plans were in place.

She told the committee they often looked back at previous disasters in order to learn lessons.

The province's most frequent disasters were informal settlement fires, veld fires, floods and drought.

Committee chairperson Malizole Mqasela told News24 afterwards that he was happy that the department had been honest about their challenges.

However, he wanted the officials to make a presentation again in a few weeks, with more "meat" on their plans.

"Then we will be able to say whether they are indeed ready in terms of budget and staff."

The committee was also concerned to hear that some disaster risk management centres in the province had only one staff member.

The City of Cape Town disaster management centre had 80 staff members. 

The Eden district had eight, the Cape Winelands four, Overberg two, and West Coast and Central Karoo one each.

"Every life is important," Mqasela said. He felt staffing should be inversely proportional to the size of the municipality.

"We feel that the capacity does not talk to the needs on the ground because those are the municipalities who do not have enough budget because of revenue streams."

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