Learning from disasters

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

The high-powered inter-departmental delegation from KwaZulu-Natal which is on a disaster management study tour of three countries has arrived in the US on its first stop.

The delegation, led by local government, housing and traditional affairs MEC, Mike Mabuyakhulu, will spend a week learning about disaster management strategies and international best practices on mitigating the impact of man-made and natural calamities.

The study tour comes after the province recently suffered disasters which claimed a number of lives and left a trail of destruction in their wake.

Last year, the province and the national government lost billions of rands after coastal areas were destroyed when tidal waves wrecked havoc and damaged infrastructure.

A few months after the incident, runaway veld fires in northern KwaZulu-Natal killed scores of people and destroyed livestock, further underscoring the urgent need for the provincial government to equip itself with better methods and strategies to handle disasters and their impact.

Mabuyakhulu said his delegation consists of three district mayors and a number of high-ranking government officials from the departments of social development, health and transport.

The delegates will also visit Japan and Indonesia.

"We want to see what lessons they have learnt and how they coped with the magnitude of the disaster," he said.

"We want to learn about their coordinating mechanisms between the various government structures so that we can also sharpen our disaster management regime."

Mabuyakhulu said the provincial cabinet believed that the lessons learnt by the countries the delegation would visit would help add to the province's arsenal of measures to deal with disasters.

He said they had chosen Japan because the country experiences regular earthquakes while Indonesia had suffered one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory in the form of the tsunami.