Johannesburg is one of 28 municipalities that have been declared disaster areas by the national government, following widespread floods.
AS rain continues to pour and floods wreak havoc around the country, Johannesburg has been declared a disaster area by Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka.
Weather services are predicting more floods in the cityWeather services are predicting more floods in the cityIn all, 28 municipalities in seven provinces have been declared disaster areas, several of them in Gauteng. Shiceka made the announcement on 17 January.
He chaired an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Disaster Management at the weekend, made up of representatives of the departments of Water, Environmental Affairs, Health, Basic Education, Agriculture, Social Development, Police, Human Settlements and Tourism. The committee discussed relief mechanisms as the possibility of more flooding grew as the heavy rains continued.
Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Free State, North West and Northern Cape are the provinces hardest hit.
According to the National Disaster Management Centre, 40 people have lost their lives and 6 000 people have been displaced by floods and other natural disasters countrywide.
President Jacob Zuma has thanked disaster management teams for their efforts over the previous weeks and has reminded communities in low-lying areas to be vigilant. "Government will do everything it can to avoid loss of life as a result of floods and urges everyone to co-operate with disaster management personnel as they respond to disasters," he said.
Already floods have poured through Ivory Park and Ebony Park, Rabie Ridge and the surrounding areas in Johannesburg. These regions were visited by the City’s emergency management services (EMS) personnel on 17 January, who went to check the damage.
A month earlier, on 20 December, the mayor led a delegation to check on damage caused by floods in Alexandra, Orlando West and Kliptown. Klipspruit and Kya Sands informal settlement were also affected. Floods had hit in the early morning of 16 December, Reconciliation Day.
The EMS spokesperson, Percy Morokane, has blamed the relentless rain for the flash floods. "These heavy rains have caused structural damage and since some of the houses have collapsed, the floods damaged household goods. We [ask] our people who live in low-lying areas to move to higher grounds to avoid unnecessary death."
Morokane said the City had set up a joint operations centre with stakeholders from the Johannesburg Roads Agency, metro police, departments of community development and housing, ward councillors from the affected areas, and the South African Police Service.
“The centre will facilitate and co-ordinate all operations, including relocation and the welfare of all affected people. We are currently relooking at our contingency plans so that there is not a repeat of incidents that have occurred in the past.”
Areas in Joburg that are prone to flooding include: Klipspruit, Eldorado South, Dube, Mofolo, Meadowlands and Bram Fischerville, some parts of Orange Farm, Lenasia South, areas around Florida Lake, Rivonia and Witkoppen roads in Sunninghill, Stjwetla Informal Settlement along the Jukskei River, London Road in Alexandra, and the Kaalrivier in Ivory Park.
Scientists at the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre have identified summer 2010/2011 as a La Niña year, and have warned of increased risks of flooding in southern Africa. They completed an update at the end of last year, reporting: “The La Niña event that emerged mid-June 2010 has developed into a moderate to strong event, and is expected to last through the first three or four months of 2011.”
In the southern part of Africa, La Niña usually brings normal or above-normal rainfall, according to the South African Weather Service website.
With heavy rain predicted to continue in the city over the next two weeks, residents are urged to stay safe and report flooding to the National Disaster Management Centre on 012 336 5742 or on 10177.
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