THE African Cup of Nations tournament might have received the go-ahead from security authorities, but the opening match in Johannesburg tomorrow could be dampened by flash floods.
The SA Weather Service yesterday issued warnings of storm clouds and flash floods in the area from today as two extreme weather systems move towards each other on a direct collision course.
Their point of impact: Gauteng.
With the weather service raising its warning to "severe" – the highest level – the storms have already begun to wreak havoc. In Limpopo yesterday, 50 homes were destroyed, while dozens of bridges and roads were washed away with many more closed as flood waters rose.
By today , according to SA Weather Service spokeswoman Kenosi Machepa, KwaZulu-Natal will also be hit by extreme flooding. "We are not trying to cause panic, but this is serious," she said.
"The weather systems are extreme. A warm weather system moving inland from the Mozambican channel is on a direct path with a cold inland weather system.
"When it hits there will be torrential downpours and strong winds.
"It will affect numerous provinces with the North West experiencing up to 100mm of rain in a few hours. Already Limpopo has been hit by floods." Machepa added: "Disaster management centres have been placed on high alert."
The warnings come as Afcon national joint operations centre commander Brigadier David Garnett said the weather would be critical to security operations.
"It will affect nearly everything we do ... it will determine how we respond, how we carry out operations, how we deploy forces and how we mitigate potential disasters.
"While there is nothing that can be done to determine the weather, we are leaving nothing to chance.
"We have taken measures to ensure that no matter what happens we are prepared for all eventualities, including natural disasters."
All the necessary personnel were in place to ensure a safe competition, which starts tomorrow and ends on February 10, Garnett said.
"Our plan is comprehensive, targeting potential trouble both inside and outside the stadium. It includes undercover officers who will mingle with spectators, searching for troublemakers.
"It also involves intelligence agencies who will continuously brief us on potential threats, be it terror, kidnappings, riots or stampede monitoring," Garnett added.
Joint military task force commanding officer Lieutenant-General Koos Liebenberg said while it was humanly impossible to prevent everything, the force had taken steps to mitigate potential threats.
"Our airspace, borders, ports and stadiums are covered.
"We have the necessary forces in the right spots to provide the right support at the right time when needed."