19 April 2022.
The most industrialised of the African continent, South Africa has mostly escaped the tropical cyclones that regularly hit its neighbouring countries. But in the last week, storms pounded the east coast city of Durban which triggered landslides and heavy floods that resulted in the deaths of more than 440 people.
Role of climate change
- Meteorologists have reported the storms to be not tropical. Instead, they were a part of the South African weather system known as the “cut-off low” which can bring cold weather and heavy rain.
- This is very common in the region and their frequency increases during spring and autumn, and they have varying strengths.
- Some of these systems of the region are very intense, causing heavy hail, rain, heavy snowfall, and strong damaging winds.
- The difference this time that caused heavy floods was the intensity of the deluge.
- The experts have pointed their fingers at climate change as the warmer seas increase moisture in the atmosphere, which then gets dumped out as rainfall.
Durban is flood-prone
- Every year, Durban experiences floods but not as severe as the recent one.
- The city has been built on a hilly area and has many ravines and gorges which facilitate floods.
- If the soil in the hilly areas is not properly stabilised then there will be landslides. Some experts have pointed out that the storm-water drainage system of Durban might not have been well maintained, thus causing such tremendous floods recently.
- One of the country’s fastest-growing cities is Durban. Unplanned migration has caused shortages of housing that have increased shack dwellings.
- The urban poor of the city resides in the low-lying areas along riverbanks. 3.9 million people in Durban live in 550 informal settlements dotted across the city.
- Out of these, 164 of them have been built on floodplains. These areas are a threat to the people living there as these areas are flood-prone.