South Africa

South Africa: Storm Surge DREF Operation n° MDRZA007 Final Report



Description of the disaster

The Western Cape Province of South Africa experienced storms which affected Cape Town and surrounding areas. An intense cold front affected the Western Cape from the 7th to the 8th of June 2017. Very high and rough sea conditions persisted the on entire coastline where South Africa’s west and south-west coast experienced the brunt of the damaging wave conditions. Along with the extreme wind and waves, heavy rainfall and flash flooding occurred in areas of Cape Town as rain spread over the eastern parts of the Western Cape and central Northern Cape with only isolated showers in the south coastal areas. From the 5th of July 2017, the South African Weather Services issued an alert of the impending intense cold front with potential for rough seas, heavy rainfall storm surges, snow falls, flash floods in West and South West of Cape Coast. Upon receiving this alert, the SARCS immediately activated response tools in readiness to provide assistance to potential victims in Cape Town. The various organs for response also started activating preparedness for response measures, including safety measures, through various social media platforms. On the 7th of July the predicted storm sages and wind gusts with speeds of 100km/ph ravaged Cape Town and other coastal areas causing damages to infrastructure, falling trees and nine (9) fatalities.

As the fierce storm took hold in the Cape Town area, large parts of Knysna, Brenton-on-Sea, Buffalo Bay and surroundings, as well as parts of Plettenberg Bay, went up in flames. The fires started as a result of strong gale force winds which resulted from the storms and an electrical spark. The severity of the situation became apparent when fire fighters, despite all efforts, could not extinguish the fires and by then 26 fires were identified in residential areas in and around Knysna. The fires affected infrastructure in Knysna and communication systems. The water supply to the town was completely severed as the fire department required all the water to fight the 26 fires. Electricity in the towns were cut to guard against further electrical fires. The gale force winds however proved to be challenging and the fires raged on and re-sparked small fires which had previously been dealt with. A call went out from the Eden District Disaster Management for help from other Municipalities and volunteer fire fighters. Over 1,000 firefighters were engaged and eventually they brought the fires under control. Almost 12,000 people were evacuated and nine people died due to the fires. Residents were evacuated to 13 halls and churches for their safety. Households, especially those who lived in informal settlements, lost their property to the fire making their situation dire.

As the magnitude of this fire emergency exacerbated, the Government of South Africa declared a state of national disaster and subsequently launched a Domestic and International Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance. The SA Government estimated that approximately 300 million was required to address emergency, medium, and long-term needs associated with the fire emergency. Some of the funding was received and the Government and various partners conducted delivery of services to affected areas. SARCS along with the Government, NGO’s and Partners also received funding from the various sources to cover the remaining humanitarian gaps.

Sequel to this impact, the SARCS with support from IFRC, launched a DREF for CHF 140,855 on 19 June 2017 to support the NS to carry out a detailed needs assessment, deliver relief supplies to the affected population, and replenish SARCS stock.