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HEAVY rains can cause damage running into billions of rands, but there are measures that can be taken to protect buildings, household contents and vehicles.
According to the Department of Social Development, flooding in seven South African provinces last year cost the country around R160-billion in economic losses.
This year, heavy rains have already hit areas in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal and the South African Weather Service has warned heavy rain will continue to fall in large parts of the country until June.
Shehnaz Somers, head of personal lines underwriting at Santam, says last year was the costliest year for natural disasters in recorded history, and the second costliest year in the history of the insurance industry.
He said in January last year, damage to homes, property and vehicles caused by flooding, cost millions of rands, affecting many insured South Africans.
People living in areas such as the currently flooded regions can limit losses by taking the following precautions:
On the road:
* Before driving off in the wet or heavy rain, make sure that your headlights, tail-lights, brake-lights and indicator lights are working properly;
* Also check that your windscreen wipers are in good condition and replace them if they're brittle or damaged;
* Give yourself more time to react to dangerous conditions and use the two-second rule to maintain a safe following distance;
* Change to a lower gear before you negotiate a bend and ensure both your hands are on the steering wheel;
* Drive in the middle lane whenever possible when it's raining;
* Attempting to drive through deep water can cause damage to your car's electronic system; and
* Once you have navigated out of the heavy rain conditions, make sure to test your brakes as they may be saturated.
* Check your gutters and downpipes on a monthly basis and before the rainy season begins and ensure that gutters direct water away from the house;
* Check your roof sheeting or tiles regularly;
* Well maintained stormwater drains are important to protect you and your neighbourhood against flooding;
* Check whether your homeowner's insurance includes additional cover (eg landslide insurance), especially if your house is built against a river bank, on top or at the bottom of a hill; and
* Most external doors have a gap at the bottom. Make sure to install a metal and rubber flap to shield your home from water seeping in during heavy storms as this could weaken the foundation of your floors, wall and door.