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Durban Floods: The Climate Crisis Unfolds in Front of Us

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As staggering images and stories continue to emerge from the horrific flooding in KwaZulu-Natal, the reality of climate change and its devastating effects cannot be ignored. 

South Africa’s weather patterns range from the Mediterranean climate of the West Coast, to the tropical climate of the East Coast. While the West Coast receives its rain in winter from the midlatitude cyclones passing over the corner of the Cape, KwaZulu-Natal on the East Coast promises wet and rainy summers. In the hotter months, KwaZulu-Natal experiences high humidity, torrential rain, and the ever-present possibility of a tropical cyclone from the Indian Ocean’s warm waters. Dr. Tafadzwanashe Mabhaudhi from the University of KwaZulu-Natal explains that Durban’s recent rainy weather is typical of South Africa’s East Coast, involving warm air and moisture moving on land from the Indian Ocean. Dr Mabhaudi also notes that the hilly terrain of the area aids in the formation of rain clouds. However, the South African Weather Service says that the amount of rain received during the period of flooding in KwaZulu-Natal this year was “of the order of values normally associated with tropical cyclones”.

These floods which have caused as much destruction as tropical cyclones, have been claimed a consequence of climate change. People living in KwaZulu-Natal have faced devastating losses: losing their property, loved ones, livelihoods, and infrastructure. Even when the rain stopped, civilians were left without electricity and running water. The beaches have been polluted, water dams contaminated, and river systems infiltrated with toxic waste. Many people affected by the flood have claimed that the flood’s catastrophic impact has been exacerbated by poorly maintained infrastructure: “While we cannot control the weather, we can and should move to prevent the tragic consequences of these severe weather occurrences. Climate change is not new to us” (Erwin, Ramreddi & Schnoor, 2022). Experts at the South African Weather Service outline that climate change ensures frequent occurrences of extreme weather events such as the floods Durban has experienced: “heavy-rain events – such as the current incident – can rightfully be expected to recur in the future and with increasing frequency”. 

Sources 

Erwin, K., Ramreddi K. & Schnoor, C. 2022. SA’s ticking climate change bomb. Available: https://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/opinion/sas-ticking-climate-change-bomb-328d37d9-9c0a-4410-9848-6530b544da4b  [2022, April 24]. 

Mwai, P. 2022. Durban Floods: Is it a consequence of climate change? Available: https://www.bbc.com/news/61107685 [2022, April 24]. 

I'm a second year Film and Media student, a wannabe storyteller, and an advocate for the relief of period poverty in South Africa. I've keen interests in Gender Studies and Environmentalism. I'm a cinephile, a huge fan of Fleetwood Mac, and the love of my life is F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby".
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