The Eastern Cape has set the ball rolling to declare a provincial state of disaster following torrential rains that left 17 people dead.
Tuesday night’s decision followed incidents of flooding and other natural disasters, including a tornado, that have affected most parts of the province over the past month, particularly over the past weekend.
Premier Oscar Mabuyane said the declaration of a state of disaster was being submitted to the National Disaster Management Centre for classification, verification and further assessment. This will give the provincial government access to resources to ensure adequate support to affected communities is provided.
The declaration will ensure a consolidated and integrated government effort to support communities to rebuild their lives and protect livelihoods.
The provincial cabinet also expressed gratitude to volunteers, members of the public and NGOs, who have been and continue to work selflessly to assist affected communities.
The Red Cross has mobilised R6.4 million to cover households’ basic needs and recovery, as well as the procurement and delivery of blankets and 1 500 hygiene kits.
Mabuyane said remarkable support had also been received from the Gift of the Givers, the Al-Imdaad Foundation, the Ubuntu Foundation and the business community in general.
“The role played by NGOs, businesses and individuals in providing humanitarian relief to communities has not gone unnoticed,” said Mabuyane.
His spokesperson, Khuselwa Rantjie, said much infrastructure had been severely damaged, including 49 health facilities and 57 schools.
Preliminary findings indicate the estimated cost of the damage to be R166 million for education facilities, while about R30 million will be required to fix electricity infrastructure such as poles and lines.
Rantjie said that according to reports received, interventions would be required to provide humanitarian relief, repair damaged houses, repair public infrastructure such as roads, schools and health facilities, and provide agricultural relief related to infrastructure and livestock.
Mabuyane and some MECs, ministers and mayors have visited affected areas to assess the extent of the damage and offer support to communities.
Rantjie said the government interventions included ensuring that displaced families were housed in various shelters, and temporary shelters had been built in some parts of the province for this purpose.
“About 17 people have reportedly lost their lives as a result of flooding during this period December 2021 and January 2022,” she said.
Cabinet noted that natural disasters had been occurring much more frequently in the province, which showed a need for proactive and coordinated efforts to improve early warning systems and enable a swift response to these incidents, she said.
Cabinet also called on communities to refrain from building houses or shelters in low-lying areas that are adjacent to rivers.
Mabuyane said that:
On Tuesday, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, accompanied by her provincial counterpart, Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi, visited parts of Mdantsane and Duncan Village in East London to assess the damage, interact with all key stakeholders and to ensure that the communities received all the necessary humanitarian support to recover from the disaster and rebuild their lives.
Zulu advised communities to always be alert and proactive: “We know that these natural disasters happen every year when the rain or fires come. Communities need to have an evacuation plan and there must be assembly points when it is burning,” said Zulu.
On Saturday afternoon, pictures and videos started to circulate on social media showing bridges that had been washed away, submerged cars and homes half underwater.
Other affected areas included Mthatha, Elliotdale, Amathole and Mqanduli.
On Saturday, the welcome centre in Mvezo at former president Nelson Mandela’s birthplace was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground.