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Government issues warning after severe weather kills 82 this summer

Vehicles in heavy rain

The department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) has urged community members to exercise caution as South Africa continues to experience severe weather and flooding. File Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 18, 2022


Pretoria – At least 82 people have lost their lives due to drowning and being struck by lightning this summer as parts of South Africa continue to battle severe weather and flooding, the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) revealed on Tuesday.

“South Africa has, over the current summer season, received heavy torrential rains which affected most of the communities across the country. These rains continue to affect our communities negatively, with 82 fatalities reported to date notably driven by drowning and lightning incidents,” said departmental spokesperson Lungi Mtshali.

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He said these “threatening conditions” call for all members of society and the government to promote risk reduction and implement coordinated response measures.

“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 Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, therefore, urges communities to exercise caution as the rain has brought about dangerous conditions,” said Mtshali.

The department highlighted that rain is “most welcomed” at this stage, as it assists in addressing the challenges of water shortages in some parts of South Africa.

“Unfortunately, the heavy downpours have caused considerable damages to large parts of the country, thus limiting movement of people and causing flooding in some areas,” said Mtshali.

“The rains have surely disrupted lives as properties and infrastructures are damaged. This has led to the activation of relevant structures in all affected provinces through the coordination of National, Provincial, and Municipal Disaster Management Centres (PDMCs) for activation of provincial response plans as well as coordination of reports by organs of state and relevant stakeholders.”

Mtshali said this is done 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.

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

“We will work together 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,” he said.

“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.”

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The department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs has called on all communities affected by the torrential rains to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions in line with disaster risk reduction principles including the following:

- Listen to and monitor special warnings on the radio, TV and social media;

- Where possible, stay indoors during the heavy rains.

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- 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.

- Protect children and ensure that they don’t end up in flooded rivers and streams.

We encourage parents, caregivers and teachers to help in emphasising precautionary measures at home and at school.

Community members have also been urged to avoid building dwellings in flood-prone or low lying areas, to 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.