Durban - Following the worst floods in recorded history in KwaZulu-Natal, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night declared a national state of disaster.
Ramaphosa said the natural disaster which completely destroyed 4000 homes in the province and killed over 400 had implications beyond KZN.
The flooding had disrupted fuel lines and food supplies.
Last week a provincial state of disaster was declared in KZN but this was inadequate.
The damage to the Port of Durban had far-reaching consequences and did not just affect KZN and that is why Cabinet decided to declare a national state of disaster, Ramaphosa said.
“[The national state of disaster] enables the mobilisation of more resources, capabilities and technical expertise in providing relief, recovery and rehabilitation to affected areas,” the president said.
“But it further gives more meaning to our work as an integrated government where the district development model is put fully inaction where the national government, provincial government and local government work together to address the type of challenges that we now have.
“We will be responding to this disaster in three phases. First, we will focus on the immediate humanitarian relief ensuring that all affected persons are safe and that their basic needs are met. Second, we will focus on stabilisation and recovery. rehousing people who have lost homes and restoring provision of services. And thirdly, will focus on reconstruction and rebuilding as many areas as destroyed and devastated including infrastructure. This will not only involve the construction and repair of major infrastructure,” Ramaphosa said.
The president said that the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force have been leading search and rescue efforts with a total of 247 rescue operations to date.
“I have authorized the South African National Defence Force to bring in more personnel, water storage and purification supplies and engineering teams to assist with electricity as well as water restoration.
“I have authorised the South African National Defence Force to bring in more personnel, water storage and purification supplies and engineering. teams to assist with electricity as well as water restoration.
“Various government departments at the national and provincial level as well as municipalities and non-governmental organisations and businesses are helping with the distribution of basic relief materials such as food, blankets, mattresses, clothing, chronic medication, toiletries, and cooking utensils,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the Department of Human Settlements has begun an assessment of damages to houses across the province and has determined initial requirements financial and otherwise for the provision of temporary accommodation.
“Preparations are underway to provide temporary residential units and it is expected that construction of these temporary units should begin by the end of this week. Financial assistance through a voucher system is being made available to assist households to rebuild partially damaged houses a national team of project managers and engineers have been deployed in the province to assess the damage and to advise on the rebuilding,” he said.
Ramaphosa said that detailed work was underway to assess and quantify the damage to roads and bridges right across the province as well as in the Eastern Cape.
He said that progress had been made in restoring operations at the port of Durban opening alternative routes for trucks to access the port terminals and clean up debris in the harbour.
“It is going to take a massive effort drawing on the resources and capabilities of the entire nation to recover from this disaster as government we will make financial resources available to meet this challenge,” he said.
Ramaphosa that the Minister of Finance has made R1billion immediately available and they would be approaching parliament for the appropriation of additional resources.
He assured South African that there would be no room for corruption and several checks and balances would be put in place to ensure that money made available for relief are not squandered or stolen.
It comes as operations to find the missing, restore power and reconnect water to homes across KwaZulu-Natal continued.
According to the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, 443 had died in the wake of the flooding and 48 people were still missing.
Of those that died, 339 were in eThekwini, 30 in Ilembe District, 5 in King Cetshwayo, 7 in Ugu and two in uMzinyathi
The KZN provincial government has described the tragedy currently unfolding in the province as “one of the worst natural disasters in the recorded history of our country”.
The Provincial Disaster Management Centre has activated a toll-free helpline which can be used by members of the public who require support 0800 000 953 / 954. This number is manned 24/7 and adds to the current capacity that is there in the District Disaster Management Centre which are the first point of call for those that are affected by the disaster.
Repairs to infrastructure and restoration of municipal services were continuing and the most affected municipalities which include the eThekwini Metro and the Districts of King Cetshwayo and Ilembe were making progress to restore the supply of electricity and water to areas where they were disrupted.
The provincial government has warned however that there are areas that have suffered extensive damage which will take longer to repair.