Floods in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, have claimed several lives as heavy downpours continue to wreak havoc in most parts of the province. Mayhem, anxiety, and large-scale destruction were reported in Durban over the Easter weekend which has led President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to declare a National State of Disaster.
The death toll from the devastating floods in and around the South African port city of Durban has risen to 443, after roads and hillsides were washed away as homes collapsed. Weather experts have said that climate change may be contributing to changing patterns and making such extreme events more frequent. The rainfall has since eased but the amount of rain which fell was equal to about 75% of South Africa's average annual precipitation.
The extensive infrastructural damage in the province has left people without shelter and businesses without road access. This has negatively affected the movement of goods and services, driving up the cost of business, threatening food security and economic growth, while hindering job creation.
The president said that the national state of disaster would enable the mobilisation of more resources, capabilities, and technical expertise in providing relief, recovery, and rehabilitation to affected areas. He said that government would respond to the disaster in three phases. The first would be focussing on immediate humanitarian relief, the second on stabilisation and recovery, and the third on reconstruction and rebuilding.
Ramaphosa also mentioned that the Minister of Finance had made R1billion immediately available, and they would be approaching parliament for the appropriation of additional resources.
Detailed work is underway to assess and quantify the damage to homes and infrastructure across the province. The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has indicated that although the government reprioritised R1 billion towards disaster relief interventions, it will need more than R1.9 billion to complete its work of assisting the 17 438 households that have been affected by the disaster.
But many South African citizens fear that the money allocated for aid would be looted by government officials and not reach those who need it the most as was the case during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There can be no room for corruption and there can be no room for mismanagement or fraud of any sort. Learning from the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are drawing together stakeholders to be part of an oversight structure to ensure that all funds disbursed to this disaster are properly accounted for and that the state receives value for money.” said President Ramaphosa on Monday.
The floods are one of the worst natural disasters to hit the country and should act as a wake-up call to the government as careful planning and implementation will be needed to mitigate the damage of future disasters as climate change continues to pose a monumental threat to humanity’s continued survival.