South Africa – Government Declares National State of Disaster Over Floods

The government in South Africa has declared a National State of Disaster to enable an intensive, coordinated response to the impact of floods that are affecting Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, the Northern Cape and North West provinces.

Floods in Komania, Eastern Cape, February 2023. Photo: Chris Hani District Municipality

Flooding has affected the provinces of Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape since early February 2023.

Fatalities were reported in Kamhlushwa and Driekoppies in Mpumalanga in early February. Severe flooding affected Nkomazi Local Municipality on 08 February. Two fatalities were reported in the area as a result.

In Eastern Cape, rivers including the Komani River broke their banks on 08 February 2023, flooding areas of the town of Komani in Chris Hani District Municipality. Other areas of the district were later affected. District officials reported around 1,000 people were moved from their homes and housed at a nearby school.

Some camps and roads were temporarily closed in the southern part of the Kruger National Park (KNP) situated in the border areas of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.

In Limpopo Province, areas of Vhembe District Municipality were flooded on 12 February.

Heavy rain from 10 February caused flooding in parts of KwaZulu-Natal Province (KZN). Homes and roads were flooded in the uMkhanyakude and Umzinyathi districts. Two people were reported missing in uMkhanyakude. The town of Newcastle in the Amajuba district was severely flooded. Dozens of families evacuated and at least 3 fatalities were reported.

The Presidency said the National Disaster Management Centre has received reports ranging from flooded homes, vehicles swept away by floodwaters and overflowing dams and sewerage facilities, to the loss of basic infrastructure and damage to roads, bridges and a Limpopo hospital.

“In agriculture, farmers have suffered crop and livestock losses, and anticipate further losses as the South African Weather Service predicts that current heavy rains will persist.

“These conditions have been brought on by the La Niña global weather phenomenon which occurs in the Pacific Ocean but impacts on a country like South Africa with above-normal rainfall,” said Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya.

He said: “With the continued strengthening of the La Niña event, the country can expect above-normal rainfall and below-normal temperatures over the summer rainfall areas.

“Taken together, these conditions demand the provision of temporary shelters, food and blankets to homeless families and individuals and the large-scale, costly rehabilitation of infrastructure.”

National entities, including the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force, may be required to play a role in the response to the disaster.

The National Disaster Management Centre continues to monitor, and coordinate response and recovery measures by the relevant organs of state and stakeholders.

Floods in Komania, Eastern Cape, February 2023. Photo: Chris Hani District Municipality