The devastating floods that have hit South Africa for five days have caused nearly 400 deaths and 41,000 affected, according to a new balance released this Friday, while the macabre search for the many missing continues.
Most of the victims have been registered in the Durban region, a port city of Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) facing the Indian Ocean, where the heavy rains that began last weekend were concentrated.
The Government has given no indication of the number of people who are missing. But five days after the catastrophe, rescuers have little hope of finding survivors. “The intense rescue phase has partially ended. Currently our work consists mainly of recovering bodies,” Travis Trower, a member of the rescue teams, told AFP.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was in Mpumalanga (northeast) for the Easter holidays, lamented a catastrophe “never seen before in the country.” Weather forecasts call for storms and the risk of localized flooding over the Easter weekend.
New storms are also expected to affect the neighboring provinces of Free State (center) and Eastern Cape (southeast), where “already one death” was recorded, according to Ramaphosa.
The rains, which reached levels not seen in more than 60 years, brought down bridges and roads and isolated much of this coastal region of the Indian Ocean. More than 250 schools were affected and thousands of houses were destroyed.
During the morning, volunteers with gloves and garbage bags began cleaning the beaches of Durban, which are usually full of families and tourists. “It’s my beach, where I take my kids, where we spend our weekends,” explains Morne Mustard, a 35-year-old computer scientist who is one of the volunteers at the popular Umhlanga beach.
For their part, the authorities announced the opening of some 20 emergency shelters that house more than 2,100 people who were left homeless after the natural disaster in the country. Likewise, South African officials asked the population to avoid contact with potentially “contaminated” water as much as possible.
He survived the flood and says that there is “an absolute devastation, a horrendous spectacle”, listing all kinds of objects and debris carried by the waters towards the beach. Thousands of people have found themselves homeless and the authorities announced the opening of some 20 emergency shelters that house more than 2,100 homeless people.
In some areas, water and electricity have been cut off for several days. Desperate people have been seen trying to extract water from the destroyed pipes and the authorities declared a state of catastrophe
The day before, there were sporadic protests demanding help. In a statement, the Durban authorities asked for “patience”, explaining that the relief efforts were slowed down “due to the magnitude of the damage to the roads”. Local authorities put out a call to donate non-perishable food, bottled water and anything that serves to heat
There was also looting and surveillance camera footage shared on social media showed people raiding supermarket shelves. Southern Africa regularly experiences violent storms during the cyclone season from November to April. But South Africa is usually spared from these extreme weather events that form over the Indian Ocean.