The South African government has declared a National State of Disaster in seven provinces, including Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, the Northern Cape and North West after heavy rains continue to batter the areas.
In a statement released late on Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the declaration of the National State of Disaster “to enable intensive response to widespread floods”.
The National Disaster Management Centre has, in terms of Section 23 of the Disaster Management Act, classified the impact of current, above-normal rainfall in various parts of the country as a national disaster, the statement read.
A national disaster may be declared by the Minster of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), where disastrous events occur or threaten to occur in more than one province.
According to the government, the National Disaster Management Centre has received reports ranging from flooded homes, vehicles swept away by floodwaters and overflowing dams and sewerage facilities to the loss of basic infrastructure and damage to roads, bridges and a Limpopo hospital.
Farmers have also suffered massive losses in crops and livestock and anticipate further losses as the South African Weather Services (SAWS) predicts that the current heavy rains will persist.
“These conditions have been brought on by the La Niña global weather phenomenon, which occurs in the Pacific Ocean but impacts on a country like South Africa with above-normal rainfall.
“Forecasts indicate this weather pattern will remain in this state during the early part of 2023,” Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya.
The presence of a La Niña event usually has its strongest impact on rainfall during the mid-summer months. With the continued strengthening of the La Niña event, the country can expect above-normal rainfall and below-normal temperatures over the summer rainfall areas, SAWS warned.
“Taken together, these conditions demand the provision of temporary shelters, food and blankets to homeless families and individuals, and the large-scale, costly rehabilitation of infrastructure,” Magwenya added.
National entities, including the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force, may be required to play a role in response to the disaster to assist where needed.
The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) will continue to monitor, coordinate response and recovery measures by the relevant organs of state and stakeholders. This will include the dissemination of early warnings and advisories on weather forecasts by the SAWS.
“President Ramaphosa’s thoughts are with affected communities across the country, and the President appreciates the way in which entities of government, non-governmental organisations and community-based structures have responded to date,” Magwenya added.