Storm calls for urgent review of weather, disaster warning systems
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.