A week after torrential rains caused catastrophic flooding in KwaZulu-Natal, search and recovery missions continue in the hope of finding dozens of people still missing.
Over 400 people are reported to have died in KwaZulu-Natal while the search is still on for those who are still missing.
On Wednesday, emotions run high as a woman’s body is brought to the surface in Greenwood Park, Durban. She died in last week’s floods. SABC News’s Chriselda Lewis is on the ground in the province:
At eMaqadini village, outside Durban, community members have held a memorial service for 11 people who perished in the floods in the area. These community members say four people including a two-month-old baby are still missing.
“It’s still very difficult because we still have members in three families which are three children who are still missing and the search is still on….. I lost my two grandchildren this after the house collapsed on them. Water flooded the house they were in and they were then swept away by water.”
It’s been described as the worst flood disaster in the province’s history and far more severe than Tropical cyclone Demoina, which left 60 people dead 35 years ago.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape.
It’s also considered worse than the floods which hit the province in 2017 and 2019. Experts have warned that this is a sign of climate change.
Pace at relief efforts
The South African National Defence Force says while there might have been slight delays to bring relief to flood victims in KwaZulu-Natal – there are processes that needed to be followed.
Many communities and political parties have raised dissatisfaction regarding the pace at which the relief efforts and recovery missions are moving.
The SANDF’s Brigadier-General Sandile Hlongwa says, “Indeed, we understand the frustrations of the people that they need something to happen and happen now. But however, we must know that everything we have to do the planning, we can’t just jump now and do something tomorrow the very same community will be complaining that what we gave them actually is not right. But however, I’m not trying to justify that. I might also in a way sort of agree that there was an unnecessary delay. But you must remember that delay might be caused because you have to combine forces. There are people here from Cape Town, Joburg, and all over. Some do not know the area so you have to get yourself confirmed with the area for you to be able to.”
Calls for assistance
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) president Velenkosi Hlabisa has urged South Africans to assist flood victims in KwaZulu-Natal. It is estimated that the floods have displaced more than 40 000 people.
Hlabisa has visited several families in Mpumalanga township, outside Durban, where homes were badly damaged in mudslides.
At one of these homes, five people were killed when a mudslide hit the rondavel in which they were sleeping.
Hlabisa has urged authorities to make aid available as soon as possible.
“Departments that will be responsible for issuing vouchers to our people for ensuring that people are able to get food. Let us fast-track the process of the application. Let us not take too long, but saying so we’re not saying override the system for the sake that you must give what is due to people because, at the end of the day, they will have to account,” says Hlabisa.
KZN Floods | IFP President Velenkosini Hlabisa’s visit to Mpumalanga following floods:
The African National Congress has praised the government’s relief efforts and planned interventions to deal with the flood crisis in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
The government has availed R1-billion for emergency relief, rebuilding of homes and infrastructure and restoration of services.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe says the party will join efforts on the ground to assist those affected.
“We have effectively declared and made all our offices throughout the country drop off centres this Friday. Our Treasurer General Mr Paul Mashatile will lead a delegation of the National Executive Committee to KwaZulu-Natal to both in action and indeed practically express our own support to those who have been affected by this and we shall also make sure that all that we have collected whether it be food parcels or dignity pads to use that moment to also distribute those.”
KZN Floods | Political parties react to money allocated to help devastated communities
The unprecedented heavy rainfall over several days led to flooding, mudslides and structural breakdown in coastal areas. Up to 400 millimetres of rain was recorded over 24 hours.
The highest rainfall for February, the province’s wettest month, is 102 millimetres.
The province estimates that 116 000 people were affected, more than five thousand people were left homeless and more than 8 000 houses were partially damaged.
The worst-affected area is eThekwini and surrounding communities. Port Shepstone on the south coast, Richards Bay and Kwadukuza on the north coast and Pietermaritzburg further inland, also suffered damages.
In an address to the provincial legislature on Wednesday, Premier Sihle Zikalala said the government’s priority is to save lives and provide humanitarian assistance.
He said the police and the defence force are assisting with the search for missing persons; and affected families will also be evacuated to community facilities.
Desperate need of assistance in parts of Eastern Cape
Meanwhile, flood-affected residents in the Nyandeni municipality in the Eastern Cape are desperately hoping to receive assistance from the government. This area which includes the town of Ngqeleni and Libode was also hit by last week’s floods. A number of houses collapsed and bridges were washed away.
Head of Communications at O.R. Tambo District Municipality Zimkhitha Macingwane speaks to SABC News:
-Reporting by Reneé Heine and Chriselda Lewis