Search and rescue teams deployed in KZN after floods head back home

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Search and rescue team members from across South Africa who travelled to KwaZulu-Natal to assist with flood operations are heading back home.

They were given a hero’s send-off by Police Minister Bheki Cele and National Police Commissioner General Fannie Masemola in Durban.

Cele commended the sterling work by members of the joint operations search and rescue teams.

“You have honoured the nation and I want to tell you that you have given so much pride to the South African nation. Anybody saying anything about you trying to underplay your role is lying. South Africans thank you that you have been one of the people that managed to raise their hands to say here we are, send us and you have served with honour, thank you very much.”

Meanwhile, the shortage of personnel in the South African Police Service’s K9 Search and Rescue Unit has been identified as one of the challenges raised by the joint operations team.

Team co-ordinator, Dave Steyn says, “There had been times where we encountered with angry communities and we tried to expose them to the fact that it was so vast and we cannot be everywhere at once. Some of the negatives as joint operation centre, our helicopters, we don’t have enough, SAAF and SAPS. We also noticed that on the police side we definitely have insufficient search and rescue k9 in the country as a whole and definitely in the province.”

Mayor visits electricity substation

EThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has visited the Marian Ridge electricity substation, west of Durban.

The power station suffered an explosion in the week following the floods last month, exacerbating the loss of power and water to areas in and around the city. Kaunda also made a brief stop at eMolweni, west of the city, where displaced families are being housed temporarily in a community hall.

The KwaZulu-Natal government continues with recovery efforts for the thousands of residents, who were affected and displaced by last month’s floods. But a month on, life has not been easy for the hundreds of displaced families. In the eThekwini municipality, there are 64 shelters.

At the KwaDinabakubo hall in Molweni, people say they are praying that the promised temporary houses units are completed soon. They have cited living among other families and poor hygiene conditions as some of their current challenges.

Victims remain housed in different temporary locations:

Anele Mkhize shared her frustrations, “The problem is one is used to stay with their families only but now since our home was washed away we are here at the hall with other people, it is draining there are too many people. I am trying by all means not to get into quarrel with anyone, but even when one had to bath there are people coming in and out of the bathroom. I am praying and hoping the temporal houses government promised us will be built soon.”

Kaunda says the flood damage in the metro alone is estimated at over three billion rand. This excludes the damage incurred by the provincial Department of Human Settlements.

“The total damage caused by the floods to our infrastructure is estimated to be sitting at the 3.8 billion rand in eThekwini excluding Human Settlements. When it comes to electricity, you recall, that over one hundred power stations were severely affected by the floods which plunged many parts of our city into darkness. We are pleased to report today that all our power stations are now in good working condition and electricity services have been fully restored in communities except in areas where there are challenges of cable theft.”

Water and electricity infrastructure also took a beating. Among his stops, Kaunda visited the Marianridge electricity substation, west of Durban.

The power station suffered an explosion in the week following the floods last month, exacerbating the loss of power and water to areas in and around the city. Kaunda says in oThongathi, north of Durban, repairs to water infrastructure could take up to six months.

“Supply in the northern region has steadily improved from 40 percent to 45 percent due to interventions we are making in oThongathi area, this is one area that has been heavily affected in terms of water supply because our water plant was washed away in that area. The assessment in terms of repairing our water infrastructure revealed that the heavy rains also damaged our water treatment in oThongathi which will take approximately five to six months to repair at an estimated cost of 30 million rand.”

The recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal killed over 400 people. Authorities have confirmed that at least 48 people are still missing.

Report by Vusi Makhosini and Nonkululeko Hlophe