At least 300 people are reported dead and hundreds more missing with the eastern coastline of South Africa battered by floods over the last week.
The rolling green foothills of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province were struck by tragedy this week
as devastating levels of rainfall saw homes and roads submerged in water.
The province’s Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs confirmed that at least
306 persons have died as a result of the floods, with this number expected to rise as search and rescue
efforts continue through today, the first day with relatively clear weather the province has seen this
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the families of those who lost loved ones in the
province late yesterday.
“We are going to spare nothing, we are going to make sure that we do everything that is required to
deal with this disaster” said Ramaphosa to reporters at the scene of a destroyed home, acknowledging
both the personal and economic hardships of the natural calamity. “Our government is getting into
gear. The Defence Force is also here… this calls for working together,” he continued.
Viral images of the flooding have been circulating on social media since the beginning of the week,
highlighting the extremity of the damage, with shipping containers and fuel tankers being washed out
to sea, homes and buildings being swallowed by landslides and cars carried away by overflowing
Helicopter rescue teams across the country were mobilized and dispatched to assist with search and
rescue efforts. The severity of the flooding meant most rescues were unable to be conducted via road.
“We undertook an aerial rescue to locate and rescue four people from Durban South,” says Paul
Herbst of emergency response service Medi-Response to FORBES AFRICA. “We located the family
and had to lower rescue crews on to the roof.”
While heavy rainfall was predicted and alerts issued, the level of devastation was unexpected by even
the South African Weather Service. “… the exceptionally heavy rainfall overnight and this morning
exceeded even the expectations of the southern African meteorological community at large,” said the
service in a statement.
With the weather clearing slightly today, the true impact of the damage is yet to be assessed as the
major transit and shipping province has seen almost all economic activity ground to a complete halt.
“Shipping has been suspended until further notice… and vessels on berth are on standby,” said
Transnet spokesperson Ayanda Shezi in a statement. The state-owned entity governs much of the rail,
shipping and port management in the country. Transit from the coastal province to inlying areas too
has been severely reduced.
However, many private citizens and NGOs have risen to the occasion to assist those in need, with
donation drives occurring across the country to supply essential goods and help to those affected.
“The calls have been coming in since last night, not from those requesting assistance but amazingly
from corporates wanting to support stricken communities,” said Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers,
an NGO which specializes in disaster relief. “With all our troubles, frictions and challenges this is
indeed an incredible country where the spirit of Ubuntu always takes center stage and reigns
With rescue efforts continuing however, the true cost of the floods is yet to be known