Original Research

The Port Alfred floods of 17–23 October 2012: A case of disaster (mis)management?

Desmond M. Pyle, Tennielle L. Jacobs
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 8, No 1 | a207 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v8i1.207 | © 2016 Desmond M. Pyle, Tennielle L. Jacobs | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 June 2015 | Published: 26 April 2016

About the author(s)

Desmond M. Pyle, School of Disaster Management, Stenden University, South Africa
Tennielle L. Jacobs, Port Elizabeth Weather Office, South African Weather Service, South Africa


An intense cut-off low weather system, more commonly known regionally as a ‘black southeaster’, caused severe flooding in Port Alfred and the surrounding coastal areas from 17 to 23 October 2012. Unconfirmed reports of up to 700 mm of rainfall for the period were recorded. Damage caused by the flooding was estimated at R500 million. Eight deaths were recorded. The poorly maintained and ageing infrastructure and storm water systems could not withstand the floodwaters, and as a result, damage was worse than it should have been. Many houses, particularly in the surrounding townships and informal settlements, were destroyed. Disease threats arose, including cholera, diarrhoea and influenza. The South African Weather Service issued weather warnings of severe local flooding in the coastal areas of the Eastern Cape a few days before the flood event. Unfortunately, there was a delay in communicating the severe weather warning effectively to the public, relevant authorities and role-players by local disaster management officials. In addition, there was poor and ineffective local coordination of disaster response and relief efforts. This paper examines the 2012 flood event from both meteorological and disaster management perspectives, using a combined qualitative and quantitative research approach. Findings point to a critical lack of coordination amongst the various role-players before, during and after the disaster. Recommendations for improved proactive and coordinated disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction for the region are made.

Keywords: Port Alfred; cut-off lows; floods; disaster management; disaster risk reduction; early warning


Port Alfred; cut-off lows; floods; disaster management; disaster risk reduction; early warning


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