Soldiers and police putting their backs into KZN flood relief


The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cabinet cluster is one of the myriad government agencies and departments currently “all hands on deck” in flood ravaged KwaZulu-Natal, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele, speaking for the cluster.

He revised the 448 fatalities figure down by 13 to 435, giving the reasons to a Pretoria media briefing.

Autopsies on four bodies determined death was murder related “as they were found with bullet wounds” and nine people were “determined to have died from natural causes” the highly visible Police Minister said adding – as of yesterday (Thursday, 21 April) “an unconfirmed number of people are still unaccounted for”.

Sharing a platform with Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, Cele said “assistance rendered” by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in KwaZulu-Natal is “executed” under Operation Chariot – “a registered effort by the military to provide humanitarian and disaster relief assistance to all South Africans in times of need”.

SA Army elements, including engineers and infantry, are assisting with protection, support with mop-up work, extraction, technical assessments, transportation of humanitarian relief equipment and goods. Other tasks falling to the landward force are restoring a pedestrian/vehicle bridge in Nteke, a semi-rural community west of Durban and provision of potable water to Pinetown West, uMzimnyathi and Tongaat.

Other water-related work soldiers and military engineers are doing will see eight water tankers on standby for use in the northern parts of Durban as far as Tongaat and a water purification plant going up at Inanda Dam.

Two platoons are currently part of rescue and recovery efforts, with other state agencies also involved. Military police will escort convoys delivering humanitarian relief and essential services in the areas of operation. The SA Air Force (SAAF) is providing air capabilities to assist with search and rescue and transport of humanitarian relief equipment and goods with SA Navy (SAN) divers also part of the search, rescue and recovery effort.

The SA Military Health Service (SAHMS) is providing operational health support in the province which includes ambulances to SANDF temporary bases and locations. SAMHS medical officers (doctors), nurses, psychologists, social workers and pharmacists are in disaster areas.

“The SANDF plan is to deploy 10 000 pledged troops incrementally, determined by continuous assessment in collaboration with the Disaster Management Committee on the ground,” according to a JCPS statement.

Cele indicated close to five thousand policemen and women are on the ground in KwaZulu-Natal in the wake of the devastating floods. They are supported by 900 plus KZN Metro police. To prevent “opportunistic crimes in identified areas” visible and public order police are on duty in Umlazi, KwaMashu, Pinetown, the Durban CBD and surroundings. What he termed “key national routes” without elaborating are also “closely monitored”.

On search and rescue, the police service has 50 divers, 17 dogs and twenty plus craft, from motorboats through RHIBs (rigid hulled inflatable boats) and rafts working rivers, estuaries, lagoons and beaches. These rescue efforts are supported by nine aircraft, mostly rotary-winged, from the air force and SAPS airwing.