Nearly 60 people died in KwaZulu-Natal floods

The country’s meteorologists predicted more “disruptive” rain on the way Tuesday evening but expected the “rainfall system” to weaken “significantly” on Wednesday.

DURBAN – The death toll from floods and mudslides after torrential rains hit the South African port city of Durban and surrounding areas in KwaZulu-Natal province has risen to 59, authorities said on Tuesday.

The country’s meteorologists predicted more “disruptive” rain on the way Tuesday evening but expected the “rainfall system” to weaken “significantly” on Wednesday.

“Many people lost their lives with Ethekwini (Durban Metro) which alone reported 45,” while in iLembe district “more than 14 (…) tragically lost their lives,” said the provincial government said in a statement.

He said the disaster “has caused untold havoc and caused massive damage to lives and infrastructure” affecting all races and classes in rural areas, from townships to luxury properties.

“This is a tragic toll of the force of nature and this situation calls for an effective government response,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is due to travel to Durban on Wednesday.

The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, expressed “sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones to the heavy floods” via Twitter.

Days of pouring rain flooded several areas, destroyed homes and ravaged infrastructure in the southeast of the city, while landslides forced the suspension of rail services.

The rains flooded the city’s highways to such depths that only the tops of traffic lights emerged, resembling underwater periscopes.

Torrents tore through several bridges, submerged cars and collapsed houses. A fuel tank was floating in the sea after being thrown off the road.

The rains flooded the city’s highways, destroyed bridges, submerged cars and collapsed homes.

Several stacked shipping containers fell like dominoes and lay on a yard, while some spilled onto a main road in the town, one of southern Africa’s biggest regional gateways to the sea.

South African state-owned logistics company Transnet has suspended shipments to Durban terminals, as has global shipping company Maersk due to flooding.

“Around 03:00 (01:00 GMT) I felt the truck shake and thought maybe someone had hit it and when I tried to open the curtain I saw that the level of the water…was very high,” trucker Mthunzi Ngcobo said. .

PILLAGE

The disaster management department of KwaZulu-Natal province, of which Durban is the largest city, urged people to stay at home and ordered those residing in low-lying areas to move to higher ground.

More than 2,000 homes and 4,000 “informal” houses, or shacks, were damaged, provincial premier Sihle Zikalala said.

Rescue operations, aided by the army, evacuated people stranded in the affected areas.

Fifty-two secondary school students and teachers left behind at a secondary school in Durban were successfully airlifted after “a long, traumatic, trapped night”, education authorities said.

More than 140 schools have been affected by the floods.

Power stations had been flooded and water supplies cut off – and even cemeteries had not been spared the devastation.

The city had just recovered from last July’s deadly riots in which shopping malls were looted and warehouses burned, in South Africa’s worst unrest since the end of apartheid.

Looting has been reported, with TV footage showing people stealing cargo containers.

The provincial government condemned “reports of looting of containers” during the floods.

“CLIMATE CHANGE IS WORSENING”

Southern regions of the continent’s most industrialized country are bearing the brunt of climate change, suffering recurrent and increasingly severe torrential rains and flooding.

The floods killed around 70 people in April 2019.

“We know climate change is getting worse, it went from 2017 with extreme storms to supposedly record floods in 2019, and now 2022 is clearly beyond that,” said Mary Galvin, professor of development studies at the University of Johannesburg.

“Droughts and floods will become more frequent and more intense and that’s what we are seeing,” she said, frustrated by the government’s lack of preparedness.

“It’s absolutely devastating, but equally devastating is the fact that we haven’t done anything to prepare for it,” she said.

The South African Meteorological Service admitted that “unusually heavy rainfall overnight (Monday) and (Tuesday) morning exceeded even the expectations of the South African meteorological community as a whole”.

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