After the relentless rain, South Africa sounds the alarm on the climate crisis

Author

Jason Burke

Source(s)
Guardian, the (UK)

Many are still missing after this month’s floods. Extreme weather is becoming more frequent, and it can be devastating

Survivors of South Africa’s devastating floods have described “sheet upon sheet of relentless rain” that washed away entire houses, bridges and roads, killing about 450 people and making thousands homeless.

The storm, which delivered close to an entire year’s usual rainfall in 48 hours, took meteorologists by surprise and has been blamed by experts on climate change. The new disaster comes after three tropical cyclones and two tropical storms hit south-east Africa in just six weeks in the first months of this year.

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The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, described a “catastrophe of enormous proportions” and attributed the disaster to the climate emergency.

“It is telling us that climate change is serious, it is here,” Ramaphosa said as he visited the flooded metropolitan area of eThekwini, which includes Durban, shortly after the floods. “We no longer can postpone what we need to do, and the measures we need to take to deal with climate change.”

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Experts say the impact of the climate crisis is increasingly obvious across Africa, with tens of millions suffering from drought in the Sahel and parts of east Africa, while the continent’s southeastern coast is hit by intense storms.

The World Weather Attribution (WWA) network of scientists, which has pioneered ways to understand the causes of extreme weather events, said climate change had made the heavy rains along Africa’s south eastern coastline both heavier and more likely.

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The South African Weather Service said that although it was impossible to attribute an individual event to the climate crisis, “globally, all forms of severe and extreme weather … are becoming more frequent and more extreme than in the recent past (as a direct result of global warming and associated climate change). In other words, heavy rain events such as the current incident can … be expected to recur in the future and with increasing frequency.”

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