Disaster management teams are on standby following a South African Weather Services alert about severe thunderstorms in the interior of KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Disaster management teams were on standby in KwaZulu-Natal following a South African Weather Service (SAWS) alert of severe thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening, the provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) said on Wednesday.

SAWS warned that lightning storms, flash floods, gale force winds, hail and possibly tornadoes could be expected in the interior of the province.

Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube urged residents to be cautious as thunderstorms posed a serious threat to human life.

"In our province, bad weather patterns tend to leave a trail of death and destruction in their wake every year. We are therefore urging our communities to take great caution. We call upon motorists to be cautious on our roads and for pedestrians to be extra vigilant and avoid crossing flooded walkways," Dube-Ncube said.

"Our disaster management teams are keeping a close eye on the developments with regards to these thunderstorms. Municipalities are also on standby to provide shelter to residents residing in low lying areas prone to flash flooding. We call upon parents and teachers to ensure that all pupils in their care take safe routes home."

Dube-Ncube said people should immediately seek shelter if storms broke out. However, she urged communities to avoid taking shelter under trees or near telephone and power lines. Other places to avoid included hilltops, open spaces, isolated sheds, gazebos or picnic places.

The MEC also urged people to avoid taking baths or showers or using telephones and electrical appliances. "Avoid being near metal objects such as fences, golf carts and steel structures such as pylons and windmills," she added.

"Do not play sport during thunderstorms. Golfers and fishermen are at high risk,"  Dube-Ncube said. "If possible, stay indoors well clear of windows shelter pets and cover vehicles, disconnect electrical appliances."

Dube-Ncube said communities should also listen to the radio or television for warnings and obey the instructions from disaster management officers.

African News Agency (ANA)