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Cape Town region declares drought disaster

South Africa’s Western Cape region which includes Cape Town declared a drought disaster on Monday as the province battled its worst water shortages for 113 years.

Boreholes will be drilled at hospitals in Cape Town, a popular international tourist destination, a mobile desalination plant will be tested and the natural aquifer at Table mountain will be tapped.

Southern African nations are reeling from a two-year drought which has affected over 40 million people, according to UN figures, and was caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon.

“(Regional leader) Helen Zille has officially declared the Western Cape a disaster area in response to the current drought crisis — the worst since 1904,” the Western Cape government said in a statement.

“The disaster declaration will accelerate… the province’s strategy to ensure that taps do not run dry,” said Zille.

The disaster alert will last for three months and can be extended if the crisis persists, the statement said.

“Our government wishes to assure the public that the declaration is no cause to panic.”

The declaration will mean that authorities in the region can prioritise public funds for drought relief operations.

Two reservoirs in the Western Cape region are already completely dry according to official statistics.

The Karoo and West Coast areas of the Western Cape previously declared drought disasters in 2016, but Monday’s announcement extends the scope of those emergency measures to the entire province.

In February Cape Town announced a crackdown on splashing and surfer shorts at the city’s swimming pools in a bid to save water.

It also called on residents not to use more than 100 litres (22 gallons) of water daily.