Ailing radar hob­bles weather warn­ings

The Star Late Edition - - NEWS - JAMES MAHLOKWANE

THE SA Weather Ser­vice needed to im­prove its in­fra­struc­ture and com­mu­ni­ca­tion out­reach if it was to pro­vide sat­is­fac­tory in­for­ma­tion to save life and limb, its chief ex­ec­u­tive, Jerry Len­goasa, said yes­ter­day.

Len­goasa was speak­ing at a me­dia brief­ing in Pretoria fol­low­ing ex­treme weather con­di­tions ex­pe­ri­enced in Gaut­eng and KwaZulu-Natal ear­lier this week, in which at least 14 peo­ple lost their lives.

Among them was a tod­dler who was swept away from a flooded day­care fa­cil­ity.

Len­goasa said glob­ally, 80% to 90% of dis­as­ters were caused by hy­dro-me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal weather, wa­ter and cli­mate or were ex­ac­er­bated by such haz­ards.

“South Africa is not ex­empt from such ex­tremes. In the face of a chang­ing cli­mate due to global warm­ing, these ex­tremes are ex­pected to in­crease… Some in fre­quency and in­ten­sity,” Len­goasa pointed out.

He said al­though some of these haz­ards could be pre­dicted well in ad­vance, such as Cy­clone Di­neo, oth­ers came with lim­ited time for warn­ings to be is­sued be­cause of their rapid devel­op­ment.

Len­goasa and his team said four of their radars in Dur­ban, North West, Mthatha and Ermelo had failed to work prop­erly. Of the five radars the SA Weather Ser­vice needed, only two were op­er­a­tional, he said.

He re­vealed that SAWS sent out weather watch and se­vere weather warn­ings, but these were di­rected at pri­mary first-level users such as the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Cen­tre, the me­dia and pri­vate sec­tor clients and part­ners, which in­cluded the in­sur­ance sec­tor. But the ma­jor­ity of cit­i­zens did not re­ceive the crit­i­cal life- and liveli­hood-sav­ing in­for­ma­tion, he added.

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