File Picture: David Ritchie/ANA Pictures
DURBAN - The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) on Friday said that the storm that battered parts of KwaZulu-Natal this week would set back its multi-billion rands Modernisation Programme scheduled for the next five years.

The agency said the programme, which was in its final stages of the Durban to Pinetown corridor would be suspended pending the total assessment of the damage it causes to the infrastructure.

Spokesperson Nana Zenani said LED signals, axle counters for train movement, fibre optics for the train communication that were set up as part of the ambitious R13 billion signalling upgrades over a five year period could have been affected.

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Zenani said the KwaZulu-Natal Metrorail services would remain suspended as the full extent of the damage to its infrastructure was being assessed. “Preliminary report however showed that Metrorail will not be able to operate for at least four to five days as Metrorail starts to implement is mop-up operations.

“So far, the Metrorail technical team has reported that a total of 17 train sets are stuck outside the operational depots either outside the stations, on the platforms or in between sections. The trains have no power or rail tracks to move them. In addition, station roofs, fences, tracks, electrical substations and signalling have been badly affected. In some instances there is no ground supporting the rail tracks as the ground and steel securing the rail tracks has been washed away.”

Zenani said the specialised and complex nature of the rail system meant that each component needed to be specific to the designs requiring that all work be re-done along with the repair works to the entire rail lines.  

She said ground had been washed away in some parts where the rail track remained.  “We will have to determine the gradient and type of soil to fix the grounds,” Zenani said. “Elsewhere we will have to order rails and all these is not a simple exercise. It will take time,” 

Zenani said that above the planned work, the agency would have to improve the drainage system and other structures throughout their corridor to mitigate the changing weather conditions. 

File photo: Independent Media
Durban suffered severe storms this week which left nearly 10 people dead and caused thousands of rands worth of damage to its infrastructure.  Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Dumile Cele said that business had reported extensive damage to property and loss of productivity. 

Cele said many businesses were forced to close resulting in losses and putting pressure on the local economy.  She said small businesses bore the brunt of the storms.
“They may not have adequate insurance to recover the losses, thereby jeopardizing the existence and sustainability of these businesses going forward. If these losses are not recovered over time the local economy can suffer significantly.” 

The storms forced the closure of the country’s largest port  after a number of vessels experienced difficulty when they broke their moorings and ran aground while another blocked entrance to the port. 

The port welcomes over 4000 commercial vessels and handles over 80m tons of cargo yearly. 

The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) said it was only able to resume full operations on Friday.  Chief executive Shulami Qalinge said that TNPA had invoked a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) at its head office and the Port of Durban to ensure that it managed the situation closely. “The BCP will be operational on a 24-hour basis until TNPA has restored operations.”

Old Mutual Insure executive for claims Hennie Nortje said that they expected to register a total of around 700 claims. "We are looking at about R600 million rands worth of damages for the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Most of the claims come from businesses and most were for properties," said Nortje.