South Africans in North West has been warned about the continuing heatwaves while a Joint Operational Centre (JOC) is being established in Gauteng following the steady decrease of water levels in the province.

North West Health MEC Magome Masike has warned the public to take the necessary precautions as the heatwave continues.

The provincial Department of Health issued the public alert after two cases of heat exhaustion were reported at Lehurutshe Hospital over the past weekend in the Ramotshere-Moiloa sub-district. The two patients were treated and are stable.

In January, the province experienced severely high temperatures, leading to the death of 11 people.

According to the Red Cross, in recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods. A heatwave is a prolonged period of excessive heat, generally ten degrees or more above average, often combined with excessive humidity.

MEC Masike has urged communities and individuals to take preventative measures.

During a heatwave, children or pets must not be left alone in enclosed vehicles, he said.

Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, hallucinations, chills, throbbing headache, high body temperature, confusion/dizziness and slurred speech.

Meanwhile, a Joint Operational Centre (JOC) is being established in Gauteng to plan around and improve the state of readiness in the wake of the steady decrease of water levels in the province.

As of Monday night, water levels in the Vaal River system were standing at 27%.

The Gauteng Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, together with the Department of Water and Sanitation and Rand Water is establishing a JOC, which will also be responsible for, among others, monitoring water levels, monitoring of water restrictions and any form of disaster management associated with the water shortage in the province.

MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Paul Mashatile said the sweltering heat and the lack of sufficient rainfall across the province pose an imminent danger of even worse water scarcity. He called for drastic saving measures by every water user.

Two months ago, the Department of Water and Sanitation gazetted the implementation of water restrictions for the Integrated Vaal River System, which largely affects water users in Gauteng.

The restrictions included the 15% reduction of consumption by domestic users and 20% reduction for irrigation users. The restrictions were intended to reduce water use and manage demand across the Rand Water supply area.

The Vaal River System is currently at an average dam level of 27% capacity, which is the total average for the 14 dams that supply the system. The Vaal Dam in particular is losing water levels at an increasing rate of 1% every week.

MEC Mashatile said a combination of weather patterns, insufficient rainfall and not nearly enough responsible water usage by water users across the province are all indications that the system may reach a level of 25% in the next two weeks, should water consumption not be reduced.

“This will trigger the next level of interventions, which may mean that we will have to increase the percentage of water restrictions across the board,” said MEC Mashatile.

He warned that Gauteng may very well be declared a water disaster area if no drastic measures are put into effect as a matter of urgency.