…. as heavy rains hit the country

By Liapeng Raliengoane

MASERU – The current heavy rainfalls and winds have resulted in loss of lives, wind-blown houses, flood flown parked cars and many devastating effects.

Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) Information Office has earlier issued a report that due to heavy rains Katse Dam is currently at 2048.78 (90.12%) meters above sea level and if the rains continue, the dam could overflow as it fills up at 2053 meters.

Last month (November), parked cars were overflown by heavy floods in Mohale’s Hoek. A week ago a taxi taking Makhalaneng passengers got swept away by an overflowing river and many lives were lost in the incident. There are recently many media reports on disasters caused by strong winds and heavy rain.

In an interview with Informative Newspaper, Joalane Ramatsie whose car was overpowered by heavy floods, said she had parked her car near Mohale’s Hoek Bus stop Area, running her daily chores when heavy rain came and afterwards she could not find the car where it was parked. It was overflown by flood.

“My car was badly damaged from the incident. I’m still in the process of fixing it,” Ramatsie emphasized.

Royal Lesotho Lifesaving Association (RLLA) member Thato Mokoaleli urged the public to learn life-saving skills so that they are safe and are able to safe other people’s lives. Mokoaleli advised people who may drown or happen to help those drowning to avoid parts where there is a lot of water and push to the parts where there’s less water pressure as this will safe their lives.

He indicated “Often times, drownings occur in village dams and rivers which are completely unsupervised. I hope more young people may be equipped with the skills to rescue someone if need arises.”

A Health and Safety Practitioner Refiloe Letete pointed out that people should stay away from windows and doors during heavy rains and strong winds. Letete also said they must avoid roadway underpasses, drainage ditches, low lying areas and areas where water collects as they can unexpectedly flood or overflow. For drivers and passengers he advised them to avoid driving in heavy rains due to poor visibility and danger of cars being overflown by flooding water.

Disaster Management Authority (DMA) Information Officer Mahlape Koali held that the authority gives out information on rainfall anticipations and advice the nation to avoid crossing rivers and taking journeys to places where water may overflow.

She explained disaster management as a continuous and integrated process of planning, organizing, coordinating and implementing measures necessary to prevent the danger or threat of a disaster, mitigating or reducing the risk of a disaster or its consequences, capacity-building, preparedness to deal with a disaster, prompt responses to a disaster, assessing the severity or magnitude of a disaster; evacuation, rescue or relief and rehabilitation and reconstruction.

On the issue of land allocation, Koali indicated that they recommend people not to place houses on places which are immune to wind and water calamities. Through Village Disaster Management Team, the authority brings disaster help closer in case of emergencies.

Koali also advised the community to be aware of the changes that could occur to the roads as a result of the changing weather conditions, regularly check water, drainage channels and fix objects that could be blown by severe wind such as boards, TV networks and others. In case of heavy continued rain, she recommends that the nation follow weather forecasts on local media and social networking websites and not to leave home unless absolutely necessary.

In September this year, the Ministry of Energy and Meteorology disseminated the Seasonal Climate Outlook for rainy season, October 2021-March 2022 and had highlighted anticipation of heavy rains.

In his speech, the Minister of Energy and Meteorology Hon. Mohapi Mohapinyane said the previous season, 2020-2021 enjoyed good rains as the entire country received above normal rainfall during October to December (OND) 2020 and January to March (JFM) 2021 with heavy rainfall experiences in January 2021.

Mohapinyane presented the Seasonal Outlook for the 2021/22 Rainfall as follows:

It is anticipated that the month of October 2021 will experience normal to below normal rainfall.

The onset of rains is forecast to be towards the end of October 2021 in the Highlands and mid-November 2021 in the Lowlands.

Temperatures are predicted to be normal for the period October 2021 to March 2022 with a possibility of below normal rainfall.

Mohapinyane highlighted the occurrences of strong winds, lightning, severe thunderstorms, flash floods and hailstorms which are common weather phenomena in summer, despite the fact that the expectation of normal to above-normal rains elevates hopes to farmers hence fortification of food security in the country.  However, climate change is expected to increase frequency and intensity of weather and climate extremes. The minister further said the ministry will continuously advise the nation on impending weather hazards which pose a risk to social welfare and property safety.

According to Disasters in Africa: 20 Year Review (2000-2019): Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) Research Institute Health & Society (IRSS), in recent years the share of global events, deaths, and people affected occurring in Africa has risen. This trend will likely continue as Africa’s share of the global population rises from approximately 13% in the year 2000 to 26% by 2050.

Floods and droughts were the most prevalent and impactful type of disasters on the continent. From 2000-2019, floods were responsible for 64% of disaster events, followed by storms at 15%. Unlike other continents, such as Asia, earthquakes and volcanoes are not prominent types of disasters in Africa.

In absolute terms, the population of Africa is projected to increase from the current 1.3 billion inhabitants to 2.5 billion by 2050, thus nearly doubling the potential population affected by disasters. Additionally, rapid growth in population increases the likelihood of urbanization in areas exposed to natural hazards and resource shortages.

In addition to population growth, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced more frequent and intense climate extremes in previous decades as a result of climate change, a trend that is likely to continue as the impacts of climate change intensifies. Regions across the continent are expected to face increased extreme temperatures, droughts, and increases in heavy rainfall.