A devastating flood in South Africa’s eastern coastal province earlier this week has left at least 341 people dead and rescuers continue to hunt for missing people amid forecasts of yet more rains from Friday.
“A total number of 40,723 people have been affected and sadly 341 fatalities have been reported,” Sihle Zikalala, premier of the affected KwaZulu-Natal province, said in an online press conference.
“We can confirm that the magnitude of the damage, which is still being quantified, will definitely run into billions of rand,” he said, calling the floods an “unprecedented disaster in the history of our province and perhaps our country.”
The province was declared a disaster area on Wednesday after incessant rains over the weekend and heavy downpour on Monday flooded homes, washed away roads and bridges, and disrupted shipping in one of Africa’s busiest ports, with shipping containers washed away and in some areas looted.
“It is bad, it is bad. We don’t have anything. I don’t even have a bed,” Somi Malizole, a resident of Isiphingo informal settlement, told Reuters as he inspected his corrugated iron shack where the contents had washed away.
Akhona Mfencane, another Isiphingo resident, who was seeking shelter at a community centre, said she fled her house after it was flooded and she was left with nothing.
As of Thursday, Mfencane was still waiting for help from the government.
“The place is always flooding, but this time around it was worse, we have never seen it like that before,” said Mfencane.
The government was still tallying the number of missing and displaced people, Zikalala, the premier, said.
The disaster has caused damage to 248 schools, and there are serious service delivery disruptions in water supply and electricity, although there are efforts to bring things back to normalcy, he said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who visited the province on Wednesday, described the disaster as “a catastrophe of enormous proportions,” adding that it was “obviously part of climate change”
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth expressed her sympathy for the people affected by the floods.
“My thoughts are with all those who have lost their lives, their loved ones, homes and businesses,” she said.
“The United Kingdom stands in solidarity with South Africa as you recover from these terrible events.”