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EThekwini Forecast Early Warning System to save lives

The Forecast Early Warning System (FEWS) was launched amid much fanfare at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre on 13 November by eThekwini Mayor Councillor Mxolisi Kaunda. The FEWS is the first of its kind in disaster management and a data monitoring tool on the African continent. The system will enable the City to better manage and mitigate the effects of flood-related disasters by simulating flood scenarios, environmental water quality, coastal erosion and wave behavior.  Access to reliable weather forecast data allows the system to predict the effects of natural disasters ahead of time, allowing enough time for the information to filter down to emergency resources.


The eThekwini (Durban) Climate Change Strategy has identified a positive rise in temperature and rainfall into the year 2065 and a 500mm increase in rainfall between 2065 and 2100.  This means more intense storms more frequently than expected.  These are evident in the weather patterns seen in eThekwini Municipality in the past decade. 


Speaking at the launch, Mayor Kaunda said: “Since 2017, approximately 100 incidents related to flooding in the Municipality required disaster intervention. In April and December in 2019, the City experienced heavy rainfall which claimed scores of lives and left a trail of destruction of private property and government infrastructure. Therefore, the launch of this early warning system demonstrates that as a City, we are not only recognising the risk posed by climate change to our lives, but we are putting in place practical measures to mitigate against climate change disasters.


He said the web-based app, Coastal-Live, is the first step in making information and warnings of extreme weather events available to all residents.


The new FEWS makes use of rain gauges and radar in catchment areas to monitor rain and sea water rise. More than 200 hotspots have been identified and these are being proactively monitored through the FEWS. The development of a similar early warning for coastal disasters is earmarked for the near future while risk hotspots will continue to be identified.


 “FEWS allows us to be proactive by identifying threats in advance to areas such as informal settlements by monitoring adjacent river levels and other stormwater systems that directly affect them. Notifications are triggered when the system produces warnings after certain levels are breached, allowing a better response within these areas for mitigation purposes,” said Mayor Kaunda.


He added: “We have no doubt that the implementation of this system is going to help us save lives and limit damage to infrastructure. The timely dissemination of these alerts could be a matter of life or death during an emergency, which is why it is important to have an efficient system.”


Sohana.singh@durban.gov.za

WEATHER

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