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'Catastrophe of enormous proportions' — Ramaphosa plans to declare KZN a disaster area

13 April 2022 - 18:03 By Mfundo Mkhize
President Cyril Ramaphosa visits Bhekisisa High School in Ntuzuma on Wednesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visits Bhekisisa High School in Ntuzuma on Wednesday.
Image: Mfundo Mkhize

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the death and devastation after torrential rains that caused roads and bridges to collapse, swept away homes and caused fatal mudslides is a “catastrophe”. 

Speaking at Bhekisisa High School in Ntuzuma on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said he had spoken to the finance minister to arrange financial aid for the province. 

“This is a catastrophe of enormous proportions and we need to act with haste to assist affected communities. We are working to gazette declaring KZN a provincial state of disaster so we can do things quickly,” he said. 

“Our bridges have collapsed, our roads have collapsed. People have died, our people are injured, so this is a catastrophe of enormous proportions.”

He said the various ministers who are champions of the district development model will be working to address the impact of changing global weather patterns. 

“This disaster is part of climate change. It is telling us that climate change is serious, it is here. We can no longer postpone the measures we need to take to deal with climate change.

“It is here and our disaster management capability needs to be at a higher level and so therefore we are going to process that as we go on. But right now the immediate situation is dealing with those who have lost loved ones, and making sure they are comforted, accommodated and well cared for. We also need to help them to be able to bury their loved ones and also find their loved ones.”

Ramaphosa thanked the police, rescue and disaster personnel in the province.

He said the premier and mayor gave him a detailed briefing and that they were fully aware of the damage. 

“However, we still need to do proper assessment and we will get the professionals, the engineers, to assess what the extent of the damage is and look at the cost. We are going to spare nothing, make sure we do everything to deal with this disaster.”Ramaphosa said there were many issues to sort out. 

“One of these is the road that takes 1,300 trucks a day to the harbour has been damaged. We will have to address that and find an alternative. But the government is getting into gear and the defence force is rolling out assistance and support to the people.”

He said 10 districts of the province had been affected and begged residents for “patience and understanding as our people are being pulled in all directions”.

Meanwhile, MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs Sipho Hlomuka said the death toll has “significantly increased and stands at 259 across the province”.

“The president's visit gives many of the affected communities hope as they deal with the trauma of losing loved ones and their homes. The loss of human life is one of the darkest moments in the history of our province. Hundreds of people have been left homeless, with many roads, public infrastructure and homes severely damaged.”

Hlomuka said the inclement weather is expected to continue over the Easter weekend and with the ground already saturated, any rain could cause more flooding and mudslides.

He urged residents to seek alternative accommodation or use community halls.

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