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8/27/2007

KZN braces for 'slamming' waves

South Africa
Sweeping, foam capped waves smashing into already devastated beaches and coastal properties - that is what KwaZulu-Natal authorities are bracing themselves for with massive plans to prevent another coastal wave disaster. Coastal engineers, municipalities, together with department of agriculture and environmental affairs scientists are preparing for another onslaught from Mother Nature. Celestial conditions mimicking March's devastating equinox coupled with high tides is again expected this September, and officials are not taking any chances. Although there are two equinoxes each year (March 20 and September 22), it's the celestial events coupled with bad weather and spring high tides that could see monster waves being created. "In terms of preparedness and awareness, the department and other listed stakeholders have been working on this since March this year." Municipalities devastated by almost three days of FREAK WAVE activity in March have now warned of the financial ruin they could face if storm activity combines with the September equinox during high tides. "We are trying to stabilise the situation. We think it will be fairly quiet provided the sea behaves, but if there is a sea storm or cold front at the same time we could see more erosion." Further south the Ugu District Municipality, which had a R113-million hole knocked into its budget by the waves, says it is monitoring the situation. More erosion and damage has also been reported in the Margate and Park Rynie areas. "We are aware of the expected Equinox but at the moment we can only monitor and observe the situation. We know that the ocean is unstable and previous damage to the coastline proves that. All necessary precautions will be taken." KwaDukuza disaster management officials have adopted a wait and see attitude after private and municipal infrastructure valued at more than R1 billion was swept away in March. The head of disaster management said he hoped that the "perfect storm" conditions were not repeated in September. "Yes, we are going to get high seas and with the frontal dunes not being there the water will sweep higher. Facilities are more exposed and there is no protection. People have protected where they have had to, but thus far there has been no major construction mainly because of the environmental authorisation needed. "We will monitor it and hope it does not happen, but we say this now, and tomorrow it happens."
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