Flood-ravaged eastern South Africa was hit by more rain on Saturday after the country’s deadliest storm in living memory killed nearly 400 people and left tens of thousands homeless.
Flooding engulfed parts of the southeastern coastal city of Durban this week, tearing up roads, destroying hospitals and washing away homes and people trapped inside.
Emergency services in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), where Durban is located off the Indian Ocean coast, were on high alert.
Relief and recovery operations were underway in the city of 3.5 million people, which would normally have been packed with Easter tourists this weekend.
The death toll rose to 398 on Saturday, while 27 people were still missing, the government said in a statement. More than 40,000 have been left homeless.
“Sadly, bodies are still being recovered from homes, especially from rural areas,” Shawn Herbst, of the Netcare 911 first aid company, told AFP.
“There is still damage, especially with the rain we are experiencing today.”
This weekend’s rain will not be “as hectic as it has been in recent days,” according to Puseletso Mofokeng, a meteorologist with the South African Weather Service.
Since the ground is oversaturated with water, more flooding is expected.
canceled rugby match
Despite the light rains that fell on the city, a local league soccer match between AmaZulu and Maritzburg United was held on Saturday at the 2010 World Cup Moses Mabhida Stadium.
But a Currie Cup rugby match between the local team, the Sharks, and the Pretoria Bulls, scheduled for the city, was canceled on Friday out of respect for the flood victims.
Troops, police and volunteers lead the search and rescue operation.
Residents of Marianhill, desperate for news of their missing relatives, were relieved to see rescuers, but fears of new rains lingered.
“Finally we have the rescue team… to get here, but seeing it rain again, they are going to be interrupted,” Dumisani Kanyile said after recovery teams were unable to find any of the 10 members of a family. disappeared in the District of Durban.
Mesuli Shandu, 20, a close relative of the family, still couldn’t believe “that a large number of people died in one day, including babies”.
“When I came I thought it was a dream, maybe someone would pinch me and say it was a dream, just wake up.” But “I see all the rescuers and dogs looking for their bodies.”
Six days after the first floods, hope of finding survivors is fading and Durban emergency medical services spokesman Robert McKenzie said the response was now focused on recovery and humanitarian aid.
“We went from the emergency phase to the disaster recovery phase, more to the humanitarian aid effort and restoration of services,” he told AFP.
Survivors continue to desperately search for their missing relatives.
The floods have damaged more than 13,500 houses and completely destroyed around 4,000, leaving 58 hospitals and clinics “severely affected”, the government said.
Clean water is in short supply and authorities have promised to deploy tanker trucks. Residents used shopping carts to carry buckets of water.
The government has announced 1 billion rand ($68 million) in emergency relief funds.
Confederation of African Football (CAF) billionaire boss Patrice Motsepe donated what he called a “humble contribution” of 30 million rand ($2.0 million, €1.9 million).
“Our people are suffering,” Motsepe said in a hall housing displaced people.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has postponed a working visit to Saudi Arabia that was scheduled to start on Tuesday, his office said.
“The loss of nearly 400 lives and thousands of homes, as well as the economic impact and destruction of infrastructure, requires everyone to get down to business,” Ramaphosa said.
South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized country, is still struggling to recover from the two-year Covid-19 pandemic and last year’s deadly riots that killed more than 350 people, mostly in the now flood-ravaged southeastern region.