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Devastation Details of South Africa’s Worst Storm Surge in Two Decades

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

South African coastal towns bore the brunt of the country's worst storm surge in two decades, according to Gerhard Otto, the Head of the Disaster Management Centre of the Garden Route. Otto shared the chilling details of the destruction in the aftermath of the storm surge with BizNews.

This devastating weekend event saw enormous waves - resembling tsunamis - engulf roads, flood residential areas, restaurants, and parking lots. According to Otto, the surge was the highest in 20 years, surpassing the previous event of similar gravity in September 2008.

The perfect storm conditions emerged due to the combination of unusually high tides and sea storms driven by strong winds. Despite the Weather Office issuing a Yellow Level Warning, many citizens did not heed the warning, resulting in unforeseen accidents and even the loss of an elderly woman.

Otto emphasised the importance of respecting the provisions set by the Emergency Services and taking heed of the changing weather conditions due to climate change. As science advances, our understanding of "normality" adjusts and unfortunately, areas once deemed safe are now being lashed by these storm surges.

The storm surge has passed for now, but South Africans should take note that similar calamitous events could strike any time. Otto recommends that people especially pay attention in September, as historical patterns demonstrated reoccurring freak storms in this month.

In the meantime, critical infrastructure repair is underway. Long-term operations to restore washed away municipal infrastructure and utilities could extend up to a year. Otto mentions that some structures may not be rebuilt, necessitating relocation to safer, higher ground.

As cleanup operations progress, assessments of financial damages are still ongoing.

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