South Durban residents worry the city’s evacuation plan in the event of an emergency is inadequate.
South Durban residents worry the city’s evacuation plan in the event of an emergency is inadequate.

eThekwini reveals port evacuation plan, but residents say it’s not enough

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Aug 15, 2020

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Durban - South Durban community leaders remain unconvinced that the city has its ducks in a row to pull off an evacuation in the event of a disaster.

Democratic Alliance councillor JP Prinsloo said the city had still not responded to requests by community organisations and questions to council on the urgent finalisation of the South Durban Basin evacuation plan.

The city, which told The Independent on Saturday it was “more than ready to deal with any calamity”, this week presented an evacuation plan that would be “work in progress” until “signed off by stakeholders”.

The preliminary plan notes that there are currently no early warning siren and public address systems installed in the residential areas of the South Durban Basin.

“Public education programmes inform the public to go inside and turn on the radio. The primary means of communication with the public will be through local radio stations,” it said.

While radio stations were initially singled out as being the primary means of communication with the public, eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said late yesterday social media platforms would also be used.

Prinsloo questioned why the city had not sought to tap into existing communication networks.

“They do not take into consideration the reach that councillors have within their own communities,” he said.

“As the Bluff councillor, I established more than 60 WhatsApp groups to communicate directly to my community on various service delivery and security issues. Yet, the City has never requested whether they could access these communication networks if a disaster ever had to occur.

“I honestly believe that the city has not done enough to safeguard the residents of the South Durban Basin. If they truly were the caring, liveable City that they claim, they would have made a lot more effort in ensuring that residents know what to do in case of a disaster.”

Desmond d’Sa of the environmental justice organisation South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) said no alarms had gone off when the enormous inferno broke out at warehouses in Rossburgh in 2017 and that there had also been a poor show last year when a fire broke out at the Sapref Refinery.

Prinsloo added the severe storms in 2017 also showed the city up.

“The City's Disaster Management Department did not have enough capacity to support the community's efforts in removing debris from public roads and ensuring that school children and families arrived back home safely.

“If it was not for the efforts of the Bluff community, the Ward 66 Committee and myself, a lot more people would have been left stranded and destitute during and after the storm.”

He said on several occasions, DA councillors from the area had called for the urgent finalisation of the South Durban Basin evacuation plan.

“Particularly after the Clairwood racecourse was turned into a logistics park, leaving the South Durban basin without an evacuation assembly point. Questions were also submitted to council by Councillor Sharmaine Sewshaker on this very issue where the city reassured us that a plan is in place, but we are yet to receive details on this plan.”

The Independent on Saturday

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