Municipal Profile

Disasters and possible interventions

The disasters are subdivided into four (4) categories namely:

Natural Hazards, Biological Hazards Environmental Hazards, and Technological Hazards.

Possible Disaster
Precautionary Measures
Natural Hazards
Inward strong spiraling winds rotating continuously that come with numerous thunderstorms and heavy rains.
Communities hit tins and chase the cyclone away with such noise to deflate it before it causes damage in the community.
A violent rotating column of air associated with hot air masses and thunderstorms causing a lot of destruction in residential areas. Mainly occurs in summer and can cause fire but has a short life before it passes on to other areas.
Communities are advised to protect animals by building kraals and protect human life even though this is no guarantee that one will not be affected.
Crystallized water ice falling from the clouds bringing cold and dangerous conditions such as disrupting public infrastructure and services, White granular small ice particles can cause slippery roads claiming lives through road accidents or roads shutting down, schools, work & church can also be cancelled, rise in sea water or rivers as it melts and can cause flooding, destruction of vegetation, structural failure on man-made structures, falling trees and harm to marine life
Accumulation of snow is removed through shovels by communities to make travel easier and safer and decrease long-term impacts of heavy snowfall, sprinkling salt to reduce melting temperature of snow, washing snow down with warm water around households.
Prolonged lack of rain, very high temperatures, and dry vegetation signifies drought and causes harm to communities, starvation for humans and animals due to diminished crop production.
Communities collect and store food and rainwater from roofs in tanks in order to sustain themselves during the drought period. Also planting less water dependent crops. At worst community, members migrate to urban areas to seek jobs so as to provide for their families.
Veld Forest Fires
Very high temperatures resulting in veld/forest fires and very hot air
Communities open up contour banks to act as fire belts around household edges and surrounding fields with such contours to prevent spreading fires.
Structural Fires
Usually occurs due to various socioeconomic reasons. Due to historical planning and development in South Africa, most towns and cities have formal build-up areas as well as informal settlements. These informal settlements are normally not well serviced and people living here do not have adequate access to basic services. People tend to build shacks to close to each other, which in turn increase the risk of informal settlement fire. Due to the lack of electricity, people are compelled to use open fires/gas for cooking and lighting. Linked to the above is inadequate education in the use of alternative energy sources, which in turn leads the incorrect use of open flames, which result in fires. Other reasons include the abuse of drugs and alcohol as intoxicated persons become negligent. Malicious intent is another reason why fires start.
In certain Local municipalities the communities are being trained how to get a person out of a house where there is a fire. They are taught to crawl into the house with a rope tied around one leg, with a damp cloth over their mouth and sign to the person outside to pull them out if it gets too hot inside the house.
Floods and Surge Floods
An overflow or accumulation of water escaping its normal boundaries and submerging the land caused by continuous rainfall for a number of days or strength of river water flowing over riverbanks causing flooding or runoff on cropland or overflow of seawaters
Communities open up contour banks around households to act to allow easy flow of water to prevent or minimize flooding as well as planting trees around to prevent further floods. Public awareness also assists communities in understanding damaging effects of floods. Communities should listen to the radio and television for warning or phone the local disaster management centre or weather office or more information. Move pets, vehicles and valuables to safety. Alert neighbors, particularly the elderly. Female and child headed households and people with special needs. Turn off electricity and gas, unplug electrical items and move them to a higher place. Communities need to co-operate with emergency services and local authorities as communities may be evacuated to a central assembly point. Avoid contact with floodwater as it may be contaminated with sewage
Hailstorm. Severe Storms and Storm Surges
Heavy dark clouds accompanied by lightning and thunderstorms causing severe damage in roads and residential areas etc. as well as the identification of rain bird (Ingududu) flying in front of the upcoming heavy dark clouds.
Communities open up contour banks around households to allow easy flow of rainwater to prevent or minimize flooding as well as planting trees around to prevent future flooding.
Lightning and Thunderstorms
Very strong high winds with dark clouds and heavy rainfall. You can see lightning within the clouds and hear far-off rumbling of thunder.
Firstly if is believed that lightning conductors and the use of indigenous methods are equally effective as lightning conductors can fail. During thunderstorms, some religions gather in the church to pray. It is also said that if someone has passed away during a thunderstorm a police officer may not come until after 2h00 so that the thunderstorm is not affected. The following should also be avoided during a thunderstorm: Trees Traditional footpaths Water Running Working in bare areas Shiny objects Communities open up at least one window to lessen damage caused and make sure lightning passes by as well as placing motor vehicle tyres over the roof to prevent lightning from striking households. Communities should listen to the radio for warning or other information and suspend all outdoor activities by children. Shelter pets, cover vehicles and disconnect all electrical appliances. Avoid tall trees, towers, fences and power and telephone poles.
Biological Hazards
Food Poisoning
Area vomiting and diarrhea mainly caused by eating meat slaughtered of immunized animals or injected to treat animal disease causes food poisoning to humans, both young and adults.
Communities seek medical assistance from clinics and transfer severe cases to hospitals.
Area diarrhea caused by lack of hygienic water causing dehydration, fatigue and weakness
Communities boil water prior to use or treat it with Jik and fence around sources of water such as rivers and dams.
Non-itchy body rash, Fine red pimples in the body mainly in children, high body temperatures, and red eyes
Communities seek medical assistance from clinics, particularly immunization and severe cases are transferred to hospitals
This virus affects bones and muscles mostly in children invading the nervous system causing fatigue, stiffness, painful limbs and possible irreversible paralysis
Communities seek medical assistance from clinics, particularly polio vaccine and immunization and severe cases are transferred to hospitals
Foot and Mouth Disease
A virus / bacteria causing flaky skin, lesions, mouth ulcer and sores, or in between toes is a sign of such disease. Common in human and domestic animals and is highly contagious.
Communities seek medical assistance from clinics and hospitals such as vaccination, immunization etc. A balanced diet is also recommended
Redness and swelling of the mouth, tongue and throat, loss of appetite, diarrhea, skin rash, sleeplessness (insomnia) and memory loss, all caused by lack of proper nutrition, alcoholism and excessive smoking in adults.
Communities engage in public awareness during Izimbizo educating communities about balanced diets that are cost effective.
Prolonged cough for three weeks, Chest pains, coughing up blood, night sweats, weight loss, fever, prolonged colds and chills, fatigue and loss of appetite
Communities seek medical assistance from clinics, community awareness about TB effects by health professionals, vaccination of children, or alternatively transferring severe cases to hospitals for proper treatment
Environmental Hazards
Land Degradation
Clearing of trees for cultivation or settlement, Extensive use of
wood Overgrazing, practices nutrients, erosion by wind or water, inappropriate land use.
(Deforestation), poor farming
depleting accelerated soil
Planting trees, Combating deforestation, Land use management, construction of contour banks and soil erosion structures, soil resource management, educating communities especially farmers about environmentally friendly crop production
Air Pollution
Respiratory problems caused by solid waste incineration, industrial heating & cooling using coal and built-in fire in poorly ventilated areas.
Educating communities to use ozone friendly products, burn fires further away from residential areas

Source: UMzimkhulu LM Disaster Management Plan 2013


The municipality has a fire department that is equipped with the necessary emergency and rescue equipment. The municipality procured fire-fighting truck and other vehicles that are always on stand-by to respond to any emergency calls. The municipality is currently in the process of constructing a fire-fighting bay that will be a point of storage and stand-by.


The municipality has preparedness plans in place. During response and recovery operations, the relevant disaster preparedness plans of the municipality will be executed by the disaster management structures.


The organizational structure for preparedness within the municipality includes Harry Gwala Disaster Management and UMzimkhulu Disaster Management, the District Disaster Management Advisory Forum, the nodal points for disaster management within municipal departments, departmental planning groups, preparedness planning groups, Joint Response & Relief Management Teams, Recovery & Rehabilitation Project Teams. The total structure of the municipality, with every member of personnel and every resource can potentially form part of preparedness capacity. Ongoing capacity building programmes will be required to ensure the availability of adequate capacity for disaster preparedness.


To create awareness on the community about disaster management, following guides have been prepared and annexed in the DMP:

Community Awareness Guide; The Workplace Emergency Plan; Fire Protection Plan