Govt relieved as rainy weather begins to subside

Limpopo was the only province that indicated its intention to declare a state of local disaster in the Waterberg District Municipality. (Gallo)

Limpopo was the only province that indicated its intention to declare a state of local disaster in the Waterberg District Municipality. (Gallo)

Thirty-two people died across five provinces due to the heavy rainfalls of the past two weeks, the government said on Monday.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Andries Nel told journalists on Monday that 25 of the 32 deaths were due to drownings. Nel said Mpumalanga had the most deaths at 12, five in the North West, four in Limpopo, three in Gauteng, and one in KwaZulu-Natal.

Six fatalities were caused by lightning and one person died due to a collapsed wall in KwaZulu-Natal. He said rescue teams were searching for three people who remain missing – two in Tshwane and one in Bela Bela.

"A number of people have been rescued from the roofs of their vehicles and several were trapped in their homes," he said.

Displaced people
​Nel said the most affected municipalities include Madibeng Local Municipality in Bojanala District Municipality in the North West, Lephalale Local Municipality in Waterberg District Municipality in Limpopo and the Nkomazi Local Municipality in Ehlanzeni District Municipality in Mpumalanga.

He said there was also considerable damage to roads and bridges, houses, water pumps, pipes and other water infrastructure. In some areas communities were unable to access workplaces, health services, shelter and schools.

Nel said provincial reports indicated that 3 000 people were still displaced in the Lephalale local municipality due to the high water levels. In other provinces, the water had subsided and the affected community members had returned to their homes.

He said rescue and search services remained on high alert and all other services, including aerial support, were always on standby but would stand down and be on normal standby as of Monday, March 17.

To date, Limpopo was the only province that indicated its intention to declare a state of local disaster in the Waterberg District Municipality due to the magnitude of the disaster there. Municipalities or provinces that want to declare a disaster may qualify for national financial support.

The worst is over
Head of the National Disaster Management Centre Ken Terry suggested that the worst was over for now, adding that the South African Weather Services indicated "we are moving towards the normal weather or rainfall patterns ... We are not on the high alert that we were on."

Terry said the rains were not the worst in recent years, but were torrential over a longer period of time, and the preparation work that was done and the movement of people after early warnings helped prevent worse losses.

He couldn't predict the costs of the clean-up exercise, saying the rescue and assessment teams would be able to go into the field and get actual verification and damage assessments now that flood levels subsided.

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