New centre to cope with disasters

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

The capacity to manage natural and man-made disasters in KwaZulu-Natal received a major boost at the weekend.

MEC for local government, housing and traditional affairs, Mike Mabuyakhulu, officially opened a multimillion-rand disaster management centre in Empangeni on the north coast.

The centre will operate under the auspices of the Uthungulu district municipality. It will serve predominantly rural municipalities under the district, including Inkandla where a fire recently razed an old-age home, leaving 12 pensioners dead.

Mabuyakhulu said the opening of the centre was a significant milestone for the municipality because it was one of the areas which has been earmarked as a camp site for the 2010 soccer World Cup spectacle.

"We are taking practical steps to ensure that we are not caught unprepared again when this municipality is hit by natural disasters.

"We also want to ensure that the municipality is able to respond appropriately and mitigate the impact that is caused by such disasters, whether man-made or natural," Mabuyakhulu said.

He said the centre should provide a template for all municipalities with regard to the minimum specifications that all district municipalities should have in order to be ready to face all kinds of disasters.

The centre is equipped with instruments which are at the cutting edge of technological innovation to deal with disasters.

Mabuyakhulu said that he and his department believed the shared services concept was one of the ways which municipalities could use to assuage the impact of disasters in an area.

"In an effort to promote the shared service concept we contributed R3,2 million through the Project Consolidate initiative during the 2005/2006 financial year. This went towards capital infrastructure for disaster management.

"We have established satellite fire stations and bought vehicles for each of the local municipalities.

"We also bought one vehicle for the districts with basic equipment for handling disasters," Mabuyakhulu said.

He said a further R700000 was made available towards equipping the centre in the last financial year.

"This project is significant especially in view of the fact that Uthungulu is one of the municipalities which will play a critical role in our province during the 2010 Fifa soccer World Cup showpiece."