Science experts have long warned that the impact of climate change on coastal cities like Durban could lead to a higher frequency of severe storm weather like the fatal tempest that struck the city last month.
A study commissioned by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) by eThekwini Municipality in 2006 warned that the effects of climate change would impact the country’s economy and infrastructure as well as the health and livelihood of its people. “From an environmental perspective, likely effects include increased flooding and storm damage, increased erosion of shorelines, decreased marine and coastal biodiversity, and contamination of drinking and irrigation water with saline water. These effects are likely to be most extreme in coastal cities such as Durban where communities and urban infrastructure will be affected by changes in sea level and extreme weather events,” the study found.
The study warned that damage to buildings could be caused by the depth of anticipated floodwaters and the force of the water flow which could contribute to structural fatigue. While government authorities and scientists work on providing citizens with timely warnings of pending storms it’s important for residents to be prepared, especially in seasons when storms typically lash the city.
Blue Security community and media liaison officer Andreas Mathios, who witnessed much of the hazards and storm damage across the city during the recent severe storm weather, offers the following advice on how to prepare for potential floods to stay safe at home, on the road and after floodwaters subside.
Home preparations and precautions
When weather services issue a warning of flash floods, which obviously means heavy rain, often accompanied by strong winds, take the following steps to prepare and stay safe at home.
• Make sure that you have sufficient bottled water in the home in case the municipal water supply is affected.
• Ensure that you have plenty of non-perishable food in the house
• Secure any garden furniture or bring it inside to prevent them becoming dangerous projectiles during the storm
• Invest in a small portable gas cooker to use in case of power failures
• Put together a basic emergency supply kit and ensure it is always stocked
Safety and security on the roads
Driving during heavy rains poses a safety risk but it is advisable to cancel any planned trips in the event of weather authorities issuing a flash flood warning. If you do find yourselves inadvertently on the road during a heavy storm take note of the following safety tips:
• Never walk, swim or attempt to drive through flood waters – you could get washed away, injured or knocked out by drifting debris.
• If you are caught off guard on the road during heavy rains stay off bridges over rapidly moving streams and rivers.
• Avoid driving through large puddles as the road surface beneath may be damaged.
• Be aware that as little as 30cm of moving water could result in your vehicle being washed away and just over 15cm of fast flowing water can potentially knock your off your feet.
• If you are stuck in your vehicle and water is filling it, escape through a window and get onto the roof.
Safety after flooding
Post flood damage will have to be assessed by authorities and it is obviously only after flood waters have receded that it will become evident which roads are still safe and which areas have been worst hit.
• Avoid driving on the roads until flood waters have subsided and infrastructure damage is visible.
• Obtain information from reliable sources such as traffic authorities and the police on when it is safe to travel
• If there is a power failure only use petrol generators outdoors and away from windows
• Never touch wet electrical equipment as you could be electrocuted and don’t touch electrical equipment if you are standing in water.
• Underground or damaged power cables can charge water so avoid wading in floodwater
• Assess the flood damages to your home and contact your insurer as soon as possible to lodge a claim
For further information and any queries or assistance regarding your home alarm system following the recent floods contact Blue Security on (031) 717 5000.