The government has declared a National State of Disaster to enable an “intensive, coordinated” response to the floods that have devastated parts of seven of South Africa’s nine provinces.
The Presidency said on Monday night that the National Disaster Management Centre had, in terms of Section 23 of the Disaster Management Act, classified the impact of the current, above-average rainfall in various provinces as a national disaster.
Last week, Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster in response to the electricity crisis at Eskom.
The Presidency said Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, the Northern Cape and North West had been affected by flooding, which was brought on by heavy rainfall as a result of the La Niña weather phenomenon.
Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape had been affected the most.
“The National Disaster Management Centre has received reports ranging from flooded homes, vehicles swept away by floodwaters and overflowing dams and sewerage facilities, to the loss of basic infrastructure and damage to roads, bridges and a Limpopo hospital,” the Presidency said.
“In agriculture, farmers have suffered crop and livestock losses, and anticipate further losses as the South African Weather Service predicts that current heavy rains will persist,” said the Presidency.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu both issued statements last week urging people to be cautious and take heed of warnings and updates from the weather service.
Major rivers ‘in full flood’
The weather service said on Monday that major rivers – including those passing through the Kruger National Park and the Lowveld – have been in full flood since the beginning of the weekend.
“The escarpment and Lowveld regions of the Limpopo province and particularly the Mpumalanga province have borne the brunt of the flooding, with the southern half of the Kruger National Park particularly affected,” it said.
“Many low-water bridges and causeways (including the Crocodile bridge and the causeway at Lower Sabie camp) are flooded, while numerous main roads, including the main road linking Skukuza to Lower Sabie, are closed due to flood damage.”
The presence of an additional low-pressure system over southern Mozambique and northern KwaZulu-Natal significantly increased the risk of flooding along the KZN coastline on Saturday, prompting the weather service to broaden its Orange Level 9 impact warnings to include a significant portion of eastern KZN.
The Kruger Park has warned that various parts of the park are expected to receive more rain this week, promping management to temporarily close some of the remote camps and evacuate staff and guests.
The Mpumalanga cooperative governance and traditional affairs department confirmed to Daily Maverick on Tuesday that three people had died as a result of the torrential rains and flooding in the province.
“Two are from the Nkomazi Local Municipality area, and one is from Mataffin, in the City of Mbombela Local Municipality,” department spokesperson Lindiwe Msibi said.
Four people were still missing.
The most affected area was Nkomazi Local Municipality.
“The majority of the bridges in this area are currently flooded and it’s very difficult for communities to commute to work and school. Hence, some school activities were suspended due to this issue,” Msibi said.
The extent of the damage to infrastructure in the province was not yet known. Some communities were experiencing water challenges after pumps had been damaged in the flooding.
Provincial disaster management teams were on the ground to assess the damage to infrastructure, and to provide relief in the form of food and blankets.
The Vhembe and Mopani district municipalities and areas in the Capricorn District Municipality have been the most affected by flooding, according to Limpopo cooperative governance and traditional affairs spokesperson Hitekani Magwedze.
There had been two deaths in the province as a result of the flooding.
The damage to houses had been “minimal” compared with floods in years past, while roads and bridges had borne the brunt of the damage.
The provincial public works department was assessing the damage.
“In the Capricorn District Municipality we have 21 gravel roads that have been washed away, and three tarred roads have been affected as well,” said public works spokesperson Witness Tiva.
Eleven bridges had been destroyed in the province.
“The hardest hit is Mopani District with six bridges [destroyed], [followed by] three bridges in the Waterberg District, and two bridges in the Vhembe District.
“The number of damaged road infrastructure is expected to increase as it continues to pour in the province.”
In KZN, the uMkhanyakude District is one of the hardest hit, Nonala Ndlovu, cooperative governance and traditional affairs spokesperson, told Daily Maverick on Tuesday. In the King Cetshwayo District and Amajuba District Municipality there had also been damage to infrastructure and houses.
“In Dannhauser Local Municipality, two people, Nokubonga Mchunu (22) and Thulani Mabaso (52), lost their lives when they were swept away while trying to cross a large body of water. In Newcastle Ward 25, an infant died when the house it was in was flooded.
“In the uMkhanyakude District, two people are still missing after they were swept away trying to cross a flooded river in Ngwavuma.”
On Monday, Eastern Cape cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Zolile Williams advised residents to take precautionary measures and safeguard themselves as heavy downpours persisted.
The affected districts include OR Tambo, Alfred Nzo, Joe Gqabi, Chris Hani and Amathole, where roads, stormwater drainages and bridges have been severely damaged.
Last week, Daily Maverick reported that 1,000 people had been displaced after floods hit the Eastern Cape town of Komani. Gift of the Givers is on the ground to provide relief.
By Victoria O’Regan