Second tornado strikes KZN

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A second tornado has hit the province of KwaZulu-Natal this afternoon in the Bergville area, with residents posting videos on social media of the disaster.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) has confirmed the Bergville tornado.

KwaZulu-Natal disaster management teams are on the ground as inclement weather sweeps through the already battered region, with further severe conditions expected in the province over the next two days.

Gale-force winds, mud slides, hail storms and localised flooding have already claimed 14 lives since 25 October 2019. The latest victims were two people who were killed when a tornado wreaked havoc in New Hanover, outside Pietermaritzburg, earlier this week.

Addressing reporters at the eThekwini Municipality Disaster Management Centre, Sipho Hlomuka, the KZN Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, said his department has dispatched 11 District Disaster Management Centres across the province.

“[They] continue to make their presence felt on the ground in leading disaster relief efforts and conducting assessments of damages. The latter is a continuous process,” he said.

Hlomuka said the province is bracing for a mega storm after receiving advice from the South African Weather Service, which indicates that heavy rain (as high as 150mm or more) and strong gale-force winds are expected all over the province from this afternoon to tomorrow evening.

“The expected storms are likely to be coupled with gale-force winds, mud slides, hail storms and localised flooding. The intensity of these rains is anticipated to be greater than that experienced in April 2019, during the Easter holidays.

“We do not wish to see a repeat of the tragedies we saw in this province in April. We believe we should be over-prepared rather than underprepared because we would better be safe than sorry when the next disaster strikes.”

In consultation with the Premier Sihle Zikalala, he said the Department has established a Provincial Joint Operation Centre in eThekwini which will coordinate province-wide responses to imminent crises as they unfold. This is operating 24/7 from the eThekwini Disaster Management Centre.

“All our municipalities have been instructed to set District joint Operation Centres which will coordinate district-wide responses to crises as and when needed. These Centres will be supervised by a Provincial Executive Sub-committee on Disasters chaired by the MEC for Cogta,” he said.

As part of these efforts, all municipalities have been directed to alert and, if and when necessary, evacuate communities from all flood-line areas and also from areas that are prone to mudslides and large-scale soil erosion.

Councillors in all wards, he said, have been asked to work with their local authorities in this regard, too.

“Ward councillors are the first port of call for communities in distress when disasters strike. Churches have likewise been requested to make their communal facilities available if needed to shelter communities in distress,” he said.

Hlomuka said the provincial government was worried about the imminent crisis.

“The danger is real as we witnessed in April when multiple houses collapsed and many lives were lost. This is not a warning we can afford to downplay or minimise in any way,” he said, adding that roads would be manned.

“We have asked the Provincial Department of Transport to ensure that major roads are monitored so that no one who traversed them is at risk. This will require that traffic on busy roads and in busy intersections is managed in an orderly manner,” he said.

Schools and business have already been urged to release learners and workers early.

“We also ask citizens not to take unnecessary risks and minimise movements. Warnings and evacuations are being planned in flood-line areas and we urge everyone to cooperate with instructions from the emergency services. We are leaving nothing to chance as these weather conditions have the potential to cause significant damage to public and private-owned coastal property.” –