South Africa declares drought a ‘national disaster’

People collect drinking water from pipes fed by an underground spring in St. James, Cape Town. The city is in the grip of a three-year-long drought. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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South Africa declares drought a ‘national disaster’

CAPE TOWN: South Africa on Tuesday declared a “national disaster” over a drought that has ravaged parts of the country and threatened to leave homes in Cape Town without running water.
The government said it had elevated the drought to a “national disaster” after reassessing its “magnitude and severity.”
Cape Town is in the grip of a three-year-long drought as sparse winter rains have failed to bring relief, and dam levels have dropped dangerously low.
Rains over the weekend raised hopes that the situation would improve, but the downpours were neither heavy nor long enough to have an impact on the situation.
The statement, published in the official government gazette, means that the national government is now responsible for tackling the issue and ensuring relief efforts.
South Africa’s second city is now facing the prospect of having to turn its taps off under a so-called “Day Zero” scenario to conserve the city’s remaining water supplies.
Most Cape Town residents would be forced to queue at communal taps at 200 water points — likely under police or military guard — to collect a daily ration of 25 liters (6.6 US gallons), half the amount allowed now.
At the start of February, the target for personal daily water usage was slashed from 87 liters to 50 liters.
A single toilet flush uses nine liters. It is hoped that usage cuts will buy the city time to find a solution — or for the rains of the southern winter to refill depleted dams.
Reducing household use, which accounts for 70 percent of water consumption, has been prioritized over slashing industry’s usage.
On Tuesday, the predicted date for “Day Zero” was pushed back to June 4 after consumption cuts.
The widespread drought has gripped swathes of the nation’s south and west.
Opposition Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane praised residents of Cape Town, a tourist magnet, for significantly slashing their water consumption.
“If we keep consumption this low for the weeks and months to come, we will defeat ‘Day Zero’ in 2018,” said Maimane, whose party runs the Cape Town municipality — and the wider region.
The drought facing Cape Town is the worst in 100 years.
The region in which Cape Town, known as the “Mother City” is located, seasonally receives rains in the southern hemisphere winter season running from around June through August.


Floods close airport in Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala

Updated 15 August 2018
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Floods close airport in Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala

KOCHI: Flights in and out of the Indian tourist hotspot of Kerala were canceled for three days Wednesday as severe monsoon flooding ravaged the region.
At least 39 people have been killed in the past three weeks and more than 50,000 displaced in an area famed for its palm-lined beaches and tea plantations.
Authorities have opened the gates of 34 reservoirs as water reached dangerous levels.
Hundreds of villages have been flooded and the military has been called in to help with rescues.
More than 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state, officials said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office announced on Twitter that Kochi International Airport — the main gateway to the region — would be closed until Saturday “due to heavy rains and resultant flooding.”
A Kerala State Disaster Management Authority official said that the death toll was expected to rise.
A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people, the official added.
“Our state is in the midst of an unprecedented flood havoc,” Vijayan said earlier this week. “The calamity has caused immeasurable misery and devastation.”
The US embassy last week advised Americans to avoid Kerala, which drew more than one million foreign tourists last year, according to official data.