No contingency plans, say sources

THE World Cup kickoff is just three days away but sources in the Western Cape government say the province is not ready for any major disasters that might happen during the tournament.

Several sources in and out of the provincial government contacted Sowetan alleging provincial disaster management director-general Schalk Carstens had failed to put a proper plan together for urban search-and-rescue operations or chemical biological radioactive clean-ups.

The relationship between Carstens and firefighters on the front line of disaster management has apparently deteriorated to the point where the province's chief firefighter officers staged a mass walkout at a meeting with Carstens earlier this year.

One source said the firefighters also did not have the necessary protective clothing and equipment to deal with any chemical spills.

"On safety and security there is no coordination between the SA Police Service and disaster management," a source said. "It is allegedly so bad that the SAPS has no representative in the provincial emergency management centre."

Another source said: "There should be plans in case of a chemical biological radioactive incident. The fire services and disaster management have no plans to handle a thousand wet and cold persons." .

Firefighters are reportedly concerned that thousands of fans will stream into the small towns - and that if a disaster happens there will be no proper plans to deal with it.

Another source told Sowetan that the Western Cape provincial disaster management centre was not functional because "the province will not pay overtime to the disaster managers working there and the manning levels will be minimal during the World Cup.".

The source said the provincial government used private companies to clean up chemical spills because they allegedly can't do it themselves.

A phosphoric acid tanker overturned outside Beaufort West on the busy N1 highway earlier this year.

"For eight hours there was nobody to attend to it. They had to get a private company from Cape Town - 400km away," the source said.

But he denied the allegation.

"We have been planning for the past 18 months," he said.

Carstens would not reveal the province's exact plans to deal with possible chemical spills, saying he was "bound by the Secrecy Act".

"We don't just make such plans available. If you put that out in public you are raising people's concerns. Emergency plans are secret documents," he said.

Carstens' spokesperson, Daniella Ebenezer, said the provincial government was "not aware" of the phosphoric acid spill earlier this year. She said it was also not aware that private companies had to be called in to clean up.

"The 2010 emergency and disaster preparedness plans ensure adequate measures to deal with the full range of hazardous chemical spills, should they occur," she said.

"At this stage the Western Cape provincial disaster management centre is satisfied with the level of preparedness of all the municipalities, state-owned enterprises and government departments."

But the sources said "if they planned for 18 months, where is the equipment for the province and municipalities? Why were there no chemical, biological, radioactive exercises? Where are the names of team members from the fire services that have to function in the teams?"