/ 5 March 2009

KZN sharpens focus on natural-disaster management

KwaZulu-Natal has been battered by natural disasters which have claimed many lives and ravaged the province’s infrastructure, the provincial minister for local government said on Thursday.

”The devastating frequency with which the floods have occurred has been such that since November last year, not a week has passed without disaster incidents being reported,” said local government minister Mike Mabuyakhulu.

He was speaking at a disaster management workshop at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli Conference Centre. The aim of the workshop was to find ways of dealing with disasters in the province.

”Our province has experienced a severe battering from disasters over the past couple of years. The scale and scope of disasters experienced has been devastating,” said Mabuyakhulu.

The workshop was also attended by Premier Sbu Ndebele, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi and disaster management think tanks from different municipalities.

Mabuyakhulu said the province had recently been battered by strong winds, lightning and storms which left a trail of destruction.

”Since November last year at least 28 people have been reported dead and immediate support has been provided for their burial. Many families have been displaced and homes destroyed, with long-term ecological effects still to be determined,” he said.

At least 8 500 houses were damaged in the province with 2 300 reduced to rubble, leaving thousands homeless.

More than R400-million was needed to deal with storm damage which occurred between November last year to date.

”This figure excludes the R2,4-billion that the province needs to rehabilitate the infrastructure after tsunami-like tidal waves that wreaked havoc along the coast line in 2007,” Mabuyakhulu said.

He said the R400-million also excluded the damage of R3,6-billion suffered during the floods on the South Coast and Umzinto and certain parts of eThekwini in June last year.

Ndebele and Buthelezi said they were concerned about the number of natural disasters that the province experienced.

They both called for full cooperation between municipalities and the provincial government to minimise destruction during natural disasters such as storms and wind.

Ndebele said government would make sure that homes were not built on flood plains. — Sapa