Thursday, October 6, 2022

South Africa deluge easing but flood emergency lingers

South Africa deluge easing but flood emergency lingers

DURBAN (AFP) - Rains were expected to let up in South Africa's flood-ravaged east Sunday after one of the deadliest storms in living memory killed nearly 400 and left tens of thousands homeless.

Floodwaters engulfed parts of the southeastern coastal city of Durban and surrounding areas this week ripping apart roads, destroying hospitals and sweeping away homes and those trapped inside.

The city of 3.5 million was overcast but national forecaster with the South African Weather Service, Puseletso Mofokeng, said "rainfall is actually clearing".

"The rainfall is going to clear all completely as we move to Wednesday," he told AFP.

But recovery operations and humanitarian relief continued in the coastal city of 3.5 million whose beaches and warm Indian Ocean waters would normally have been teeming with Easter holidaymakers.

The number of flood-related emergency calls had decreased compared to early last week.

"Emergency services are still currently on high alert on Sunday morning," Robert McKenzie of the provincial KwaZulu-Natal emergency services told AFP.

It rained on Saturday and overnight, "however now, it has stopped," said McKenzie.

Even so, emergency services were busy attending to a scene in the district of Pinetown where a house collapsed overnight.

"Fortunately now the flood waters have receded and (some) roads cleared. It's a lot easier to access the community," he said.

Christians congregated at churches across the city to pray for those affected by the floods as they celebrated Easter Sunday.

Government and charities were marshalling relief aid for the more than 40,000 people left homeless by the raging floodwaters.

The government has announced an immediate one billion rand ($68 million) in emergency relief funding.

Hospitals and schools destroyed

Deputy Social Development minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, said some 340 social workers had been deployed to offer support to traumatised survivors with many still missing children and other relatives.

The death toll rose Saturday to 398 while 27 people were reported still missing, the government said in a Saturday statement.

Most casualties were in Durban, a port city and a major economic hub.

Parts of the city have been without water and electricity since Monday after floods ripped away infrastructure. Desperate residents have been seen carrying buckets of water using shopping trolleys.

Scores of hospitals and hundreds of schools have been destroyed.

The intensity of the floods took South Africa, the most economically advanced African country, by surprise.

It has previously watched similar tragedies hit neighbouring countries such as cyclone-prone Mozambique.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has postponed a working visit to Saudi Arabia that was scheduled to begin Tuesday.

"The loss of nearly 400 lives and thousands of homes, as well as the economic impact and the destruction of infrastructure, calls for all hands on deck," said Ramaphosa.

The country is still struggling to recover from the Covid pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people, mostly in the now flood-struck southeastern region.