SA must pre­pare for dis­as­ters

Pretoria News - - OPINION -

SOUTH Africa has been lashed by un­prece­dented tor­na­does over the past week; first in Gauteng and then KwaZulu-Natal. On Mon­day a tor­nado passed through Mo­gale City, rip­ping the roof off the Cradle­stone Mall and Protea Ridge School, send­ing trees tum­bling to the ground and leav­ing a num­ber of peo­ple dead.

On Tues­day it was eThek­wini’s turn, with tor­ren­tial rain, ve­hi­cles up to their doorhan­dles in water and con­tainer ships rock­ing in the port.

There are dis­as­ter ar­eas but also sto­ries of he­roes among those in­volved in res­cue and re­lief op­er­a­tions.

South Africans have shown their gen­eros­ity in help­ing neigh­bours in need with col­lec­tions, tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion and meals pro­vided in af­fected ar­eas.

And, while there has been water ev­ery­where, Cape Town con­tin­ues to face the re­al­ity that its water sup­plies are fast run­ning out – per­haps even be­fore the much-vaunted de­sali­na­tion plants can be­come op­er­a­tional to at least cre­ate drink­ing water from the sea.

The ex­tremes may seem quite dis­parate and the truth of our coun­try is that we have al­ways been one of ex­tremes – of harsh, mer­ci­less droughts fol­lowed by stormy pe­ri­ods.

The prob­lem is that we seem to have done noth­ing much to prop­erly pre­pare for it.

We seem to have in­suf­fi­cient warn­ing of im­mi­nent dan­ger­ous weather con­di­tions and still far too many peo­ple who live in high-risk ar­eas, or do not evac­u­ate homes or stay off the roads even when ad­vised to do so.

And as a coun­try, have we done enough to gather for the lean times, to har­vest and store water and keep it clean.

This is a water-scarce coun­try and the lat­est events are a sign of cli­matic change af­fect­ing the world at large.

We should see the storms as a warn­ing sign of the power of na­ture and of the need to do some­thing to en­sure we are pre­pared and pro­tected to face it.

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