One thing foreigners envy about South Africa is our climate: it is sublimely pleasant – not too hot, not too cold and not too stormy.
When we look at TV and witness hurricanes, tornadoes and floods wreaking havoc in other places, we seldom give it a second thought. It’s all a bit remote for us in mild South Africa.
On Monday and yesterday, in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal respectively, we got a rude awakening.
Those scenes of devastation – uprooted trees, cars swallowed up to door level by water, collapsed roofs, fallen power and phone lines and traffic chaos – were in our own country. Our own people were suffering.
People were evacuated from the fierce winds and hail storms and sheltered in halls, others stared desolately at the ruins of their homes. Paramedics took many to hospital after they were injured by falling or flying debris and there were a few casualties.
The disaster was a reminder of the power of nature, even in a country as apparently climatically stable as ours. But it was also a reminder that humankind has an influence on nature.
That is not only in the planetary sense of human impacts on phenomena like global warming, but close to home in the way we live.
Our cities – and those in Gauteng are a case in point – are increasingly becoming smothered in paving, concrete and tar as we build, build, build.
This means any rain water which does fall runs off far quicker than it would on open ground and, therefore, floods happen faster.
Then, our litter clogs up water drains and culverts, causing even more flooding. No one can predict nature, but we should be making plans in terms of adequate infrastructure to reduce its financial impact.