Durban - Despite the heavy rains that destroyed hundreds of properties and left thousands of people destitute, stakeholders say it was all systems go for the tourism sector and were ready to welcome visitors.
On Wednesday, the eThekwini Municipality announced that beaches would be closed until further notice in the northern Durban after the United Phosphorus Ltd (UPL) dam had overflowed due to heavy downpours.
The city said due to climate change, there was an increase in several natural disasters which was mainly perpetuated by global warming.
In spite of the natural disaster that had taken place during the week, the northern and southern tourism sector were confident that it was all systems go and were prepared for the long weekend.
Some community groups working together in their precincts had started with clean-ups after the floods on Wednesday.
The Umhlanga UIP said the heavy rains over a five-day period caused major flooding in KZN with rivers depositing vast amounts of plastic and natural debris into the sea which has washed up on the beaches. They were forced to employ 22 extra people to assist with a major beach clean-up.
Dewet Geldenhuys uMhlanga UIP precinct manager said: “In addition to our 28 casual and permanent staff, the public and other role-players turned out in numbers to assist. We hope to make some headway with the mess, however high tides will continue to deposit rubbish on the beach so it will take time to completely clear the beaches.”
Herder Hunter of the Umhlanga Tourism admitted that even though there were some cancellations because of the predicted weather conditions, they had hoped for the best. “Right now we cannot predict except to say we believe there have been some cancellations and possibly more will come. It is too soon to say definitely what Easter will bring,” she said.
While Surini Smut Margate Business Association media liaison told the Sunday Tribune that there were cancellations from visitors due to the unexpected weather but had hope for a prosperous Easter weekend.
“We have had teams of volunteers on our beaches since early this morning (Wednesday), picking up litter and debris after the flood. We as a community, together with our local Municipality worked hard to get everything ready, in order to welcome the Easter visitors,” she added.
Msawakhe Mayisel, a city spokesperson, said Durban tourism has shown that bouncing back is possible. “Due to climate change, we have seen an increase in several natural disasters globally which is mainly due to global warming. Durban in the past has gone through similar occurrences and has come out victorious, the resilience of the tourism industry in Durban has shown that bouncing back is possible.
“After the mayor’s call for support from businesses in Durban, various tourism stakeholders have volunteered to lend a helping hand which include the cleaning of debris in key tourism precincts like the beachfront,” he said.
Mayisela added that it was still premature to give the exact statistics however they are projecting a loss of 30 000 visitors.
Kwanele Ncalene, spokesperson for the KZN Department of Transport said the department had a lot of activities that were put in place to prepare for the Easter holidays. “We had an 80% high expectation of visitors flocking in the province for the long weekend. However, we are disturbed by the recent floods since some of the roads remained closed for the entire long weekend.
“This has cause traffic congestions leading for traffic to move at a slow pace. We have a solid team on our busiest roads who are divert motorists to other alternative routes. This is a trick situation, so we advice the public to not travel unless it is important to,’’ said Ncalane.
The KZN Department of Transport said the following were the affected roads:
• Bay Head is completely closed as it has collapsed as a strategic route for the movement of cargo coming in and out of the province. Its closure will have severe impact on the economic activities of the province and country. Trucks are unable to access container terminals. M7 which is the route used by trucks from Bay head is also experiencing some failure so there is currently mop up work to clear the debris.
• N2 North Coast at Umhlali Bridge the North Bound is closed and traffic diverted to the South Bound as the bridge has shifted…..the current congestion is making the movement difficult especially between Durban/KwaDukuza to areas of Northern Coast (Empangeni to Zululand)
• N2 South Coast at Umgababa, the North Bound is closed and traffic is diverted to South Bound (traffic diverted to R103). There are huge traffic congestions
• N2 South Coast at Umkomaas, the South Bound is closed and the traffic diverted to North Bound on contraflow
• N2 South Coast near Adams onramp, North Bound, slow lane closed due to sinkhole
• N2 Isibaya (one lane is closed expect traffic congestion) this might affect those travelling in and out of airport in particular those coming for leisure in KZN
• N3 to Durban Two lanes closed at Camperdown for clean up
• Delays continue N3 at Mariannhill Toll Plaza and M1 Richmond Road