Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Pretoria: A total of 82 people have been lost to drowning or lightning across the country as the heavy torrential rains continue to batter South Africa, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) has revealed.

On Tuesday, the department said the threatening conditions required all of society and government to work together to promote risk reduction measures and implement a coordinated response.

“In the same vein, our communities are key to ensuring the success of the response efforts by acting in a manner that reduces their exposure to risks of the prevailing flooding incidents,” the department said.

CoGTA Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in a statement urged communities to exercise caution as the rain had brought about dangerous conditions.

“Rain is most welcomed as it assists to address the challenges of water shortages in some parts of our country. Unfortunately, the heavy downpours have caused considerable damage to large parts of the country, thus limiting movement of people and causing flooding in some areas.”

The department said rains had disrupted lives, damaging properties and infrastructure.

In response to the disaster, National, Provincial and Municipal Disaster Management Centres (PDMCs) have been activated in all affected areas.

This was in line with the 2021/22 National Summer Seasonal Contingency Plan as well as seasonal contingency plans of sectors, provinces and municipalities that have also been activated to coordinate multi-sectoral response efforts.

Disaster teams across the country have been dispatched to various parts of the country and are working around the clock to assist communities, said the department.

CoGTA spokesperson Lungi Mtshali said the department would work with all stakeholders to assist communities that are affected by the current rains.

Relevant authorities will assess the situation and provide the necessary support to affected communities.

“In an effort to protect lives and livelihoods, we urge communities to be cautious whilst walking or driving on the roads as some bridges have been eroded by heavy water and devastating floods.

“We call upon all communities affected by the torrential rains to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions in line with disaster risk reduction principles.”

He said this included:

  • Listen to and monitor special warnings on the radio, TV and social media;
  • Where possible, stay indoors during the heavy rains;
  • Avoid walking in flooded areas;
  • Avoid swimming or crossing flooded rivers or streams;
  • Avoid crossing roads and bridges covered by water;
  • Those staying in low lying areas which often experience flooding should move to higher areas;
  • Avoid flooded areas, even where water looks weak, it can still pose a threat;
  • Look out for washed-out roads, earth slides, and fallen trees or power lines; and
  • Protect children and ensure that they don’t end up in flooded rivers and streams.

The department urged parents, caregivers and teachers to help in emphasising precautionary measures at home and at school.

“To this end, we urge all our communities to avoid building dwellings in flood-prone or low lying areas, regularly observe weather safety messages and contact their local councillors, traditional leaders and emergency services should the need arise.

“The National Emergency Call Centre number is 112 to request emergency assistance and report emergencies.

“We further caution against making false calls to the call centres. False calls divert emergency services away from people who are truly in need and in life-threatening situations, thus requiring immediate emergency assistance.”

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) continuously issues updated early warning alerts to the public through all platforms and channels.

“We convey condolences to those who lost loved ones due to the current torrential rains. We also share in the pain of those who unfortunately lost properties.” he said.