/ 2 January 2024

Death toll increases to 22 after KZN floods

After visiting KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday
Flooding in KwaZulu-Natal. File photo Rajesh Jantilala/AFP/Getty

At least 22 people have been killed and 13 are still missing in KwaZulu-Natal after disruptive rain hit parts of the province over the festive season.

While clean-up operations are still underway, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) this week issued a weather level 4 warning for the province after flooding was reported along the coast and parts of the Eastern Cape on Monday.

SAWS forecaster Ayanda Nsele warned that heavy rainfall in Durban, Port Shepstone, Richards Bay, Amanzimtoti, Mtwalume and other areas along the coast could lead to localised flooding and infrastructure damage. 

Meanwhile, the DA in the province has accused the KZN Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) of failing to implement contingency measures to minimise the impact of natural disasters. 

In a statement released following an increased death toll due to the flooding, DA deputy shadow minister of Cogta, Jacques Smalle, said the local government’s failure around municipal systems had exacerbated the flooding.

“Once again, the ANC-led province has failed to develop and mitigate against high-risk flooding areas. Their lack of understanding of municipal water systems, sources of flooding, and the impact of pluvial flooding is once again affecting the lives and livelihoods of residents,” said Smalle.

Cogta refuted the claims, saying that it had not ignored its mandate of ensuring the safety of its communities.

“We did issue a warning where we alerted residents that there would be heavy rains and we urged people to stay at home. It is unfortunate that we received distressing calls where people have been swept away,” said Cogta spokesperson Siboniso Mngadi.

In response to disasters in the province, KZN Cogta MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi launched a multi-agency disaster management awareness campaign in December to bring agencies together to collaborate and educate communities on disaster risks within the province.

She emphasised that the department remains committed to detecting early warnings to assist communities and municipalities in planning effectively for disasters.

“We will provide information on the incident management protocol and how to seek assistance from relevant government departments and other stakeholders in disaster management,” said Sithole-Moloi.

This comes as KZN still reels from the aftermath of the April 2022 floods which claimed the lives of more than 400 people and cost the economy billions of rands due to the damage to infrastructure.

Although Cogta said it has been alerting at-risk communities of possible disasters, many residents refused to evacuate their homes in low-lying areas when told to do so.