DURBAN - KWAZULU-NATAL residents should not panic about the availability of fuel as there was no risk of a shortage.
This is according to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who addressed the media yesterday regarding Transnet port and rail operations.
Gordhan said that Bayhead Road, which provides access to the port and Island View, had been affected by the floods.
He said a large crater formed on the inbound lanes on Bayhead as a result of the floods, and would take two to three weeks to repair.
On the outbound lanes of the road, reinforcements had been put in place and both lanes were now open, with one lane for inward and one for outbound traffic.
He said that due to the damage at Bayhead, permission was granted to use the route via the Bluff area to allow tankers to transport fuel.
“This has ensured that fuel is being supplied in eThekwini and KwaZulu-Natal and, as far as this is concerned, there is accessibility for fuel and there is no risk of a fuel shortage in KwaZulu-Natal.”
Gordhan said that operations were affected at the Durban Port by the flooding after debris had entered the harbour area.
“There are three rivers and 52 canals that feed into the Durban Harbour, and during the flooding a lot of debris was fed into the harbour.
“We are pleased to announce that most of the debris has been cleared or isolated.
“This has come with the help of various stakeholders, including the private sector.
“The remaining debris will be cleared in the coming days.
“We are pleased that the Durban Port is fully operational and will be operational with 100% staff, as staff are returning after the Easter weekend.”
Speaking on the national State of Disaster that was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night due to the KZN floods, Gordhan said recovery would take place in three phases.
“The three phases of recovery are first, the humanitarian relief; second, stabilisation and recovery; and third, reconstruction and rebuilding.
“In the reconstruction and rebuilding phase, we have to take into account climate change, as the rebuilding that we do has to be climate resilient.
“We have to take into account that due to climate change a situation like the flooding in KwaZulu-Natal could take place again.”
Gordhan said that Transnet rail lines were severely damaged by the floods.
“The area of eThekwini and Cato Ridge saw the most damage to Transnet rail lines.
“The damage was caused due to embankments collapsing, mudslides, and foundations being swept away.”
He said they had categorised the repair work that needed to be done on the lines, depending on how severe the damage was.
Gordhan said the transport of coal had been affected by the damaged railway lines, and contingency measures had been put in place.
Speaking yesterday, Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, said the national State of Disaster could last up to three months, but could be terminated earlier.
She said the government would respond to the disaster through the District Development Model approach.
“This will ensure that the required action is taken within each district to address the immediate needs of those affected, as we continue to work to ensure that all affected persons are safe and that their basic needs are met.
“National ministers, premiers, MECs and mayors will also provide regular updates to the nation on interventions being undertaken in managing this disaster.”
She added that 4 000 homes had been destroyed, and 9 000 homes had been partially damaged.
More than 40 000 people had been left destitute.
While thousands had been displaced, she said vouchers would be available for residents whose homes were partially damaged, so that they could start rebuilding their homes rather than wait for the government to repair them.
She said those whose homes were destroyed and who had been moved to shelters and halls would be transferred to temporary homes that would be constructed as soon as possible.
The floods have reignited government concerns about people building homes in dangerous areas like on river banks and hilly terrain.
Town planning experts have called for a need to strengthen legislation to ensure that people do not build homes in high risk areas. However, they said moving people to safer areas might prove a challenge due to the scarcity and cost of suitable land.
Louis du Plessis, the acting head of the Department of Architecture at Durban University of Technology, said building in safer areas was possible, but the costs were the challenge.
“The location of communities is determined by a complex set of factors. One is the proximity to the areas they have to access on a regular basis, mainly for employment or perceived opportunities for supporting a livelihood,” he said.
He said more suitable areas for construction were usually available further away from the areas the community needed to access, forcing people to spend more money on transportation if relocated.
“Often, it becomes a choice between being able to feed your family, but living in areas that are unsuitable from a construction point of view, or living in an area that is more suited to the construction of houses, but sacrificing food for transport,” he said.
“We also need to consider the intangible aspects of communities that are often disrupted through relocation – the existing set of relationships between people and their attachment to the place where many have lived for a long time are often held as being very important by the community,” he said.
Sibusiso Sithole, an expert in architecture urban design from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said there needed to be a change in the way construction was carried out because land was scarce and expensive.