South Africa News

More rain lashes SA’s flood-ravaged southeastern region

South Africa’s flood-ravaged east was hit by more rain Saturday after the deadliest storm to strike the country in living memory killed nearly 400 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

Floodwaters engulfed parts of the southeastern coastal city of Durban this week ripping apart roads, destroying hospitals, and sweeping away homes and those trapped inside.

Emergency services in the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, where Durban is located off the Indian Ocean coast, were on high alert.

Recovery operations and humanitarian relief were underway in the city of 3.5 million which would normally have been teeming with Easter holidaymakers this weekend.

“Sadly there are still bodies being recovered from homesteads, especially from the rural areas,” Shawn Herbst of the first responder company Netcare 911 told AFP.

“There is still damage taking place, especially with the rain we are experiencing today.”

The death toll rose on Saturday by three, to 398 while 27 people were reported still missing, said the government in a statement.

This weekend’s rainfall will not be “as hectic as it was in the past few days”, Puseletso Mofokeng, senior forecaster at the South Africa Weather Service, said. But with the “soil being over-saturated with water, we can still get a lot of flooding”.

Around a tenth of the more than 300 mm rain that fell on Monday, was expected Saturday.

Troops, police, and volunteer rescue workers are operating from a small civilian airport.

Residents of Marianhill, desperate for news of their missing relatives were relieved at the sight of rescuers, but the dread of fresh rains lingered.

“We have the rescue team finally… reach here, but seeing the rain that is coming back, they are going to be disrupted,” said a concerned Dumisani Kanyile after recovery teams failed to find any of the 10 members of one family went missing in the Durban district.

Mesuli Shandu, 20, a close relative of the family was still in a state of disbelief.

“This is the first thing that has ever happened to our family, that a massive number of people died in one day, including babies.”

“When I came, I thought it was a dream, maybe someone would pinch me and say it was a dream, just wake up.” But “I see all the rescuers and the dogs searching for their bodies”.

‘Another disaster’

Six days after the floods first struck, hope of finding survivors is fading and Durban Emergency Medical Services spokesman Robert McKenzie said the response was now focused on recovery and humanitarian relief.

“There has been a shift in response to the emergency as we have moved from the emergency phase to the recovery phase of the disaster, more to the humanitarian relief effort and restoration of services,” he told AFP.

Survivors are still desperately looking for missing relatives.

“We are getting calls constantly on a daily basis. Yesterday there were 35 calls attended to, and there were six bodies recovered,” said Travis Trower, director for the volunteer-run organization Rescue South Africa.

The floods have damaged more than 13,500 houses and completely destroyed around 4,000. at least 58 hospitals and clinics have been “severely affected”, said the government.

Clean water is scarce and authorities have promised to deploy water tankers. Residents were using shopping trolleys to carry buckets of water.

The government has announced one billion rand ($68 million) in emergency relief funding.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) chief billionaire Patrice Motsepe donated what he called a “humble contribution” of 30 million rand ($2.0-million, 1.9 million euros).

“Our people are suffering,” said Motsepe announcing the donation before the Zulu King, Misuzulu Zulu, at a hall sheltering displaced people.

South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized country, is still struggling to recover from the two-year-old Covid pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people, mostly in the now flood-struck southeastern region.

“Just as we thought it was safe to get out of (the Covid) disaster, we have another disaster, a natural disaster descending on our country,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a Good Friday speech.

The floods are “a catastrophe of enormous proportions… not seen before in our country”.

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