Storm calls for ur­gent review of weather, disas­ter warn­ing sys­tems

The Mercury - - NEWS - Hlan­ganani Gumbi

BOTH the provin­cial Co-op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs Depart­ment (Cogta) and eThek­wini Mu­nic­i­pal­ity disas­ter man­age­ment were caught nap­ping this week as ex­treme weather con­di­tions hit Dur­ban, killing at least 14 peo­ple.

The storm, which made land­fall mid-morn­ing on Tues­day, saw thou­sands of Dur­ban res­i­dents caught by sur­prise as trees were up­rooted, cars were washed way, homes were flooded and nu­mer­ous schools forced to close their doors.

The DA’s prayers go out to all af­fected – in­clud­ing our coun­cil­lors across the city who are do­ing ev­ery­thing to en­sure that res­i­dents re­ceive the as­sis­tance they need.

This week’s storm shows that an ur­gent review of the prov­ince’s weather and other disas­ter warn­ing sys­tems is needed. In ad­di­tion, KZN Cogta MEC, No­musa Dube-Ncube, needs to ex­plain why there was no wide­spread for­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tions cam­paign ahead of the ex­treme weather con­di­tions.

The public should have been warned of the im­pend­ing storm via of­fi­cial chan­nels. Tech­nol­ogy makes it pos­si­ble to track any ap­proach­ing storm or weather con­di­tion and it is sim­ply un­for­giv­able that this did not take place.

Peo­ple should have been warned to keep off the roads and to stay away from work and school in the ar­eas most likely to be hard-hit. Cer­tainly, this would have made the work of emer­gency ser­vices much eas­ier.

While these teams have done a com­mend­able job in terms of mopup op­er­a­tions, the re­al­ity is that there could have been fewer lives lost and less dam­age done had res­i­dents been made aware of what was head­ing their way.

In­stead, there was chaos with many Dur­ban res­i­dents re­ly­ing on un­of­fi­cial re­ports to keep them in­formed of no-go ar­eas. Many of these were hoaxes which caused wide­spread panic. This also raises the point that it is il­le­gal for pri­vate cit­i­zens to is­sue weather warn­ings.

Adding fuel to the fire is the ANC-led provin­cial gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to cut its Disas­ter Man­age­ment bud­get by R144 mil­lion due to the repri­ori­ti­sa­tion of re­mu­ner­a­tion of Izin­duna. The ef­fect of this sig­nif­i­cant bud­get shift re­quires ur­gent in­ter­ro­ga­tion and the DA will write to the chair­per­son of KwaZulu-Natal’s Cogta port­fo­lio com­mit­tee in this re­gard to re­quest a full brief­ing for mem­bers.

The peo­ple of our prov­ince are re­liant on provin­cial gov­ern­ment be­ing com­pe­tent and well-re­sourced in the event of a disas­ter.

Un­til such time as disas­ter man­age­ment re­ceives ad­e­quate fund­ing and as Cogta – un­der Dube-Ncube – be­gins to take a proac­tive rather than a re­ac­tive ap­proach, the lives of KZN’s peo­ple will con­tinue to be placed at risk as a re­sult of ever-chang­ing weather pat­terns.

Gumbi is the DA KZN spokesper­son on Cogta and a mem­ber of the provin­cial port­fo­lio com­mit­tee. He is the deputy chief whip of the DA in the KZN Leg­is­la­ture and a for­mer eThek­wini coun­cil­lor.

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