Homes were flattened and roofs ripped off when a tornado hit the rural areas in New Hanover, just outside Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Supplied/Department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs

Port Elizabeth - Heavy rains in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape this week appeared to spell an end to the dry season following hot and extremely dry conditions in of the country, the Department of Water and Sanitation said in a statement on Wednesday. 

However, the rains were accompanied by a tornado that claimed the lives of three people in New Hanover, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

At the same time, Gauteng also experienced 60% rains that made little difference to the dam levels but stabilised the Vaal Dam to 69.7%. As a result of these downpours, dam levels are expected to improve slightly by the end of the week. 

South Africa’s average dam level is 60,2%, a 10% drop compared to the same period last year. The coastal belt of the Eastern Cape is set to benefit from the current rainfall which spreads from the Dolphin Coast in KwaZulu-Natal to the northern part of Eastern Cape. 

However, until the rains are spread throughout the province, it will be some time before the back of the drought is broken in the province. 

Meanwhile, the situation has not changed in the Joe Gqabi district where eight towns under its jurisdiction have become dry. The district is the latest to join the drought-stricken areas in the Eastern Cape. 

The Orange River which runs through Aliwal North, Ugie, Mount Fletcher, Mclean, Lady Grey, Barkly East and Burgersdorp, is completely dry and most of the affected towns now rely on groundwater and water tankering. 

Last week the Provincial Government declared the water situation in the province a provincial disaster, which means that water funding is now prioritised to avert a total catastrophe. 

The South African Weather Services and departmental scientists predicted an above-average rainfall in most parts of the country between December and February 2020. 

However, the latest report on dam levels by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) suggests that the country’s water situation continues to deteriorate at the rate of losing one percent water a week due to the searing heat wave.  

Last week three provinces, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and North West water levels dropped to below 50%. Until the recent rains, KwaZulu-Natal was on the verge of becoming the fourth province to have low water levels in its reservoirs. 

DWS says the Mopani district dam level reports show that Tzaneen Dam has now dropped to 5.7% in the past week. 

"The citrus fruit town is headed for serious water shortages unless some heavy rains start coming down in the next 10 days or so," the department said.

"Giyani, which is a stone's throw away from Tzaneen, is almost in a desperate situation as Middel-Letaba, which supplies the town, is almost empty at 2.8%."

DWS will hold an urgent meeting with the provincial co-operative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs (CoGHSTA) on
Thursday to discuss ways of averting the looming disaster in the region.

DWS said that while rainfalls are expected to improve in December, it intensifying water conservation efforts by everyone was crucial for water sustainability.

African News Agency (ANA)