Cyclone Dineo is heading for us
South Africa is bracing for the fury of Cyclone Dineo today as it shifts from battering Mozambique's coastline with howling gales and torrential downpours.
The storm - upgraded to cyclone status late yesterday - is expected to hit Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal today. Forecasters predict the cyclone will generate winds of 118km/h to 212km/h.
Government agencies and the emergency services are on alert.
"We have activated all provincial emergency teams," said Legadima Leso, spokesman for the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which co-ordinates disaster and emergency responses.
"We have been meeting and planning to make sure we minimise the impact of this storm."
Leso said the department had asked the emergency and disaster teams of the police, the defence force, provincial and national disaster management teams, traffic management and the departments of social development and health to be on stand-by.
Dineo grew rapidly this week from being a normal tropical storm on Monday to being rated as "severe" on Tuesday.
Its power was frighteningly evident yesterday as it lashed the coast of Mozambique, giving a foretaste of what awaits South Africa today.
"It's very scary and we don't know what's going to happen or if our structures are still going to be there when the cyclone has passed," said Renier Botha, manager of the Guinjane Lodge on Guinjata Bay, about 550km north of Maputo on the coast. The lodge has been evacuated.
"It has been raining heavily since 3am and it has not stopped. The winds have got worse and the cyclone is still to hit us," Botha said late yesterday afternoon.
Brian Jefferies, of Jeff's Palm Resort, in Praia de Jangamo, Inhambane province, has been tracking the building storm.
At about 3.30pm he reported a southeasterly wind gusting at 49knots.
"The water has now breached our dive centre and restaurant ... we'll see what happens there. Some other places had water breaches earlier," Jefferies said.
The SA Weather Service has predicted that the first rain from the cyclone will fall on the Lowveld today and on the rest of the country tomorrow.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for co-operative governance Nomusa Dube-Ncube said the province's disaster management teams were warning people that if the storm were as bad as predicted they might have to take shelter in municipal halls or in the more substantial houses of their neighbours.
"People with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or asthma must ensure that their medication is easily accessible, especially in the event of a quick evacuation," she said.
She warned communities in the path of the cyclone to stay indoors until it is safe.
"Stock up on canned food," she said.
"Don't panic but be alert.
"We have placed all our disaster centres on high alert and we are concentrating more resources in support to the northern area of the province."
The head of disaster management in KwaZulu-Natal, Jonty Ndlazi, said: "In all municipalities, we have town and community halls. We will also help with Wendy houses and tents.
"But we also encourage communities to assist by housing the affected should the cyclone strike."
The SA Weather Service has identified Ehlanzeni district, in Mpumalanga, and Mopani and Vhembe, in Limpopo, as high-risk areas.
Local governments in the two provinces said plans for mitigating the effects of the cyclone were in place.
Limpopo will activate a joint operations centre at midday today.
Spokesman for Mopani district municipality Neil Shikwambaba warned residents "not to attempt to cross rivers or bridges" and risk being swept away.
Gift of the Givers is among the organisations on cyclone stand-by.
"We are in a state of preparedness all the time. This includes having dedicated infrastructure for disaster response, equipment and supplies ready to be deployed at short notice," said Imtiaz Sooliman, the organisation's founder.