South Africa’s leading telecoms companies Vodacom and MTN have chipped in to assist those affected by the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
This, as the mobile operators ramp up efforts to restore cellular networks that were knocked out by the heavy downpours that hit the province.
This week, Vodacom and MTN said over 900 base stations were affected by the incessant rains in KZN.
The major areas impacted include Durban South, South Coast, Umlazi, Malagazi, Amanzimtoti, Ballito and Salt Rock, among others.
According to reports this morning, the death toll caused by the rains and flooding has risen to 306.
A State of Disaster was yesterday officially declared in KZN following the devastating floods and landslides.
In a statement, MTN says as it continues efforts to restore connectivity to flood-hit KZN, the scale of the devastation is increasingly clear. The telco notes it has decided to increase its sponsorship of food parcels and blankets for those most in need by a further R250 000, taking the total donation to R500 000.
“While our priority remains on restoring connectivity to the region as quickly as possible, it is clear that humanitarian assistance on the ground is urgently needed and we have taken a decision to ramp up our support to meet this need,” says MTN SA’s executive for corporate affairs, Jacqui O’Sullivan.
“In an effort to assist families and friends to keep in touch during this trying time, we will also offer a free SMS bundle, for 50 SMSes valid for three days, to our over seven million customers in KZN,” she adds.
According to the telco, MTN’s efforts to restore impacted sites are progressing and technicians have been able to recover some sites in Umlazi and Amanzimtoti, with over 278 sites recovered yesterday.
However, it says access to sites and the intermittent rain continues to make recovery challenging and is also resulting in more sites going down.
“The impact of the flooding in KZN has been devastating and we are clear that we have a role to play in assisting those most impacted. We are also continuing with an extraordinary effort to ensure connectivity throughout the region is restored as soon as possible,” O’Sullivan says.
Vodacom yesterday announced it has donated R3 million to Gift of the Givers Foundation to help towards relief efforts, aimed at helping scores of people, who have been hard-hit and displaced by the devastating floods in the province.
The money will assist with the provision of food, blankets, water and toiletries.
As a result of the rains, Vodacom says many people have abandoned their destroyed homes, while hundreds have been evacuated, forcing them to find shelter in community halls, centres and churches.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, director of external affairs for Vodacom South Africa, says: “The devastation, human displacement and the loss of life and property caused by the heavy rains and floods in KwaZulu-Natal is a serious tragedy that is appealing to all of us to demonstrate Ubuntu.
“Our R3 million donation is aimed at supplementing efforts by provincial government and will be used to provide food hampers, blankets, sanitary towels, bottled water, baby food and nappies for affected families. This amount is over and above our business as usual financial commitment to ensure access to communication by restoring the sites and the network.”
Vodacom notes its KZN regional team has been steadfast in ensuring the communication network is restored as quickly as possible to ensure the affected people are not cut off from the rest of the world.
By deploying generators to certain accessible sites, 150 of the 400 affected sites are now operational, says the operator, adding that engineers are working around the clock to restore connectivity as quickly and safely as possible.
“As a locally-grown company, it is part of our purpose-led business approach to provide aid to uplift humanity whenever the need arises. This is part of our social contract to use our resources working in partnership with government and other social partners to respond to some of the pressing needs in communities in which we operate,” concludes Netshitenzhe.