Deputy President David Mabuza says government has activated a Joint Response Tactical Team to spearhead search and rescue operations in KwaZulu-Natal in the aftermath of the devastating floods in the province.
“The organs of State, across all spheres of government, have also activated contingency arrangements in line with their respective mandates, and integrated institutional arrangements to deal with the disaster.
“As part of an integrated response to this disaster, government has developed a National Integrated Flood Response and Recovery Plan that outlines the multi-sectoral response and recovery efforts to be implemented by all stakeholders in affected communities,” he said.
The Deputy President said through this plan, government has adopted a three-pronged approach to the disaster response and recovery. This includes:
· Phase 1: Immediate humanitarian relief, to ensure that all affected persons are safe and that their basic needs are met;
· Phase 2: Stabilisation and recovery, which includes rehousing people who have lost homes and restoring provision of services; and
· Phase 3: Reconstruction and rehabilitation, with a focus on “Building Back Better”.
“In line with this approach, government activated a Joint Response Tactical Team comprising search and rescue specialists from all first responders across public, private and volunteer organisations, in order to spearhead the search and rescue operations, as well as provide humanitarian relief to communities affected by this disaster in KwaZulu-Natal province,” he said.
Mabuza said the team is based at the Virginia Airport, which is located 10 kilometres north east of Durban, and is supported by the South African Police Service Air Wing, and the South African National Defence Force with a variety of resources including aircraft, engineers, as well as water bunkers and tankers to support the provision of basic services to the affected areas.
“As part of the rapid response interventions, the National Disaster Management Centre reported that, as of 30 April, 8 096 people in KwaZulu-Natal were being accommodated in 98 shelters,” he said.
Government implementing rapid response interventions
The Deputy President said the recent floods and heavy rains in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and some parts of the Eastern Cape, as well as parts of the North West, have brought untold misery and suffering.
“We have witnessed severe damage and destruction of houses, property, infrastructure, loss of homes, personal possessions, as well as unprecedented loss of lives and livelihoods, with the devastation felt most acutely in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Once again, we would like to express our deepest condolences to all the families and relatives of the people who have lost their lives due to this natural disaster and tragic calamity.
“Our thoughts and prayers are also with all the families whose members are still not accounted for. We remain hopeful that continued recovery and rescue efforts will help us find closure in this regard.”
The Deputy President said in responding to the damage that has been brought about by the devastating floods, on 18 April, the President declared a National State of Disaster as an effective response by all spheres of government to this disaster.
“In the main, this is to enable government to urgently coordinate and deploy all necessary resources to affected areas as part of its rapid response interventions.
“In terms of the National State of Disaster, the primary responsibility to coordinate and manage the disaster is assigned to the national sphere of government, working closely with provincial governments and municipalities of the affected areas.
“This enables the mobilisation of resources, capabilities and technical expertise in providing relief, recovery and rehabilitation to affected communities.”
The Deputy President said in this regard, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, through the National Disaster Management Centre, is coordinating the response and recovery measures by the relevant organs of State and stakeholders.
Continuous assessments to determine cost of damage
Mabuza said, meanwhile, that government is conducting continuous technical assessments of costs to determine the extent of damage in affected areas that will determine medium- to long-term interventions.
“Furthermore, to fast track the implementation of response and recovery interventions, National Treasury has issued guidelines to the affected provinces and municipalities on budget reprioritisation and reallocation of existing conditional grants, in line with the Public Finance Management Act.
“This will enable National Treasury and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to finance shortfalls that are currently being experienced by organs of State, given the extent and magnitude of the impact of the damage, in order to bring back normality, and restore the delivery of services to the affected communities.”