“In the Bayhead area, a container fell on to a police vehicle, killing the policeman inside. A second policeman had to be extricated from the vehicle,” said Rescue Care’s Garrith Jamieson.
Emergency services and authorities were left reeling after pounding rains, hail and winds of up to 90km/h hit the metro, collapsing roofs, flooding highways and leaving dozens submerged in vehicles, prompting the city to issue a warning to residents to stay indoors. The metro reported that a river had broken its banks near the N2 southbound, washing vehicles away on the N2, and that sinkholes had been reported. Large parts of the city were still without electricity by 3pm yesterday.
Watch video taken from Storm Report SA:
Jamieson said paramedics had been kept “extremely busy” in the south of Durban, particularly the Amanzimtoti area. “First, they responded to a taxi that was stuck in a ditch, leaning to the side, with rising water levels on the N2 northbound opposite the Galleria mall. Three people had to be assisted.”
On the M7 before South Coast road, paramedics Ceron Lennox and Ian Wessels and fireman Justin Bateman rescued three people from a bus on the flooded road, he said. The water had risen to just below the bus windows. Provincial health department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said the heavy rains adversely affected five hospitals in the area. King Edward, Addington, King Dinuzulu and Wentworth and Prince Mshiyeni Memorial hospitals had borne the brunt of the storm, he said.
Reports had been received that a part of the roof at Umlazi’s Prince Mshiyeni hospital had collapsed, but this could not be confirmed by the time of publication. As many as 300 schools in KwaZulu-Natal had been affected by the weather and forced to close.
While Durban residents were yesterday trapped on both the roads and indoors, parliament’s portfolio committee on environmental affairs announced that it was encouraged by a climate change legislation that will be introduced in 2018. Such a commitment would ensure South Africa lives up to its “commitments to the Paris Agreement and begins to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies as part of the peak, plateau and decline trajectory”, it said.
Wits University professor and environmental scientist Bob Scholes said although climate change could not be specifically attributed to the storms, there was a likelihood that events such as these would be greater in future. Scholes explained the storms of the last few days were not out of the norm for this season, with weather conditions such as these experienced in the past.
South Africa recently experienced a drought through a strong El Nino weather pattern, he said, but now it was a return to “business as usual”. Wetter conditions may be due to being exposed to the La Nina effect: a reverse of El Nino, which is associated with the warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
“La Nina typically brings more rainfall, which comes in summer where moisture is being drawn in tropical areas, leading to violent storms. It’s nothing unusual.” Climate change speaks of a statistical accumulation of events, he said.
“All of the climate change projections for Southern Africa would say there is a likelihood of us getting events of greater severity … it is part of all of the predictions.”
While there is consistency with climate change projections, it is, however, not safe to say the recent storms are due to this. But a warming world on the other hand has more intense storms because of more evaporations, Scholes said. “The climate system is on steroids.”
This results in high intensity events, such a thunderstorms, which deliver a vast amount of rain in a short space of time, accompanied by hail and strong winds. Tropical storms were also generated in the Indian Ocean and South Africa was “protected by Madagascar, which gets smacked every year”, he said.
“So when these storms get to Africa it is not so violent.” Known as a cut-off low, these storms dump a huge amount of water when trapped on land – and prepare to see more of these, Scholes said. “We don’t know if cyclone tracks will move towards the pole. If it goes further south – it will miss Madagascar and hit the South African coast.”
This will result in high winds and rain.