Photo: Emile van Rooyen

KZN tornado: Questions raised over “failure” to warn locals

The blame-game has started in New Hanover. COGTA are accused of ‘sitting on their hands’ before the a fatal tornado tore through the KZN Midlands.


Photo: Emile van Rooyen

The dust hasn’t had time to settle in New Hanover, KZN. The region was battered by a tornado on Tuesday, which ripped through an energy sub-station and several neighbourhoods. Homes have been flattened, schools have been trashed and, sadly, lives have been lost.

Two people have been killed by the damage and destruction wreaked by the intense weather conditions. A search organised by SAPS and emergency services found a further 22 people were injured by the carnage – some reports have said that people were missing limbs after the tornado destroyed everything in its path.

KZN Tornado: DA alarmed by lack of warnings

It’s quite understandable that anger has followed in the 24 hours since this was first reported. But now, the DA are more than happy to play the blame-game. Mbali Ntuli is the party’s COGTA Spokesperon in KZN – the politician believes that the ANC-lead structure could have done more to prevent these casualties:

“It has transpired that the South African Weather Service confirmed earlier yesterday that ‘an intense, category four storm’ was expected during the afternoon. The question is whether the COGTA MEC, Sipho Hlomuka and his Department, did anything to alert or assist residents of New Hanover in advance.”

“Part of the mandate of KZN’s COGTA Department is to provide assistance in the event of a disaster. This applies to both proactive and reactive measures. It cannot be that COGTA only appears after the fact. MEC Hlomuka say if this untenable situation has been rectified and whether the province has a fully operational disaster management facility in operation.”

Mbali Ntuli

New Hanover: Could more have been done to protect locals?

Does Ntuli have a point? Well, the SA Weather Service (SAWS) did confirm that they put out wheather watches just before 6:00 on Tuesday morning. However, that was only upgraded to a warning at 14:30 in the day. The forecasters also “cannot predict individual tornadoes”, but only the conditions that may lead to one:

“The potential for severe weather on this day was identified by the forecasters at SAWS and a WATCH was issued for severe thunderstorms in KwaZulu-Natal at 05:53 local time on the morning of 12th November 2019. This was upgraded to a warning at 14:32 local time for selected local municipalities.” 

“As is standard practice in other countries, SAWS issues alerts and warnings for severe thunderstorms that could lead to tornadoes, but not for individual tornadoes. We urge the public to respond only to severe storm information sourced from reputable agencies with the mandate to issue and distribute weather-related warnings.”

SAWS statement

Essentially, the upgraded warning came very close to when the tornado actually hit the province. Even if the COGTA branch managed to sound the alarm, it may not have reached residents in time. However, the DA remain simmering, and feel that the lack of action helped increase the chance of fatalities.