/ 15 January 2024

Durban again hammered by heavy rain, flooding

Durban floods January 2024
Many roads in Stanger and surrounding areas were damaged in the floods. Photo: Supplied

The deadly floods that caused destruction across Durban over the weekend have added pressure on the government to declare a state of disaster across KwaZulu-Natal.

Authorities have said that five people were killed in eThekwini and so far two people are missing, presumed washed away by the floodwaters.

The department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs said the severe storm system left a trail of destruction in the municipalities of eThekwini, KwaDukuza and Ndwedwe.

On Sunday, emergency services from the police, affected municipalities and private companies continued their search and rescue operations after Saturday night’s storm, which resulted in houses and roads being flooded, landslides and cars being washed away.

Areas that were affected included KwaDukuza (formerly called Stanger), Verulam, Tongaat, Phoenix, uMhlanga, uMdloti and some parts of Durban South.

Residents evacuated as homes and roads started flooding. 

Much of the areas affected were plunged into darkness when electrical infrastructure was damaged.

On Sunday, many roads, bridges and intersections including Ridge Road, the M4 and M41 and multiple roads in uMhlanga, remained closed because of sinkholes and parts of the roads being washed away.

Ward 35 councillor Nicole Bollman said that multiple suburbs in uMhlanga had been affected by the storm. 

“There are many areas with a number of roads that have been closed due to a substantial number of sinkholes. During our oversight visit, parts of the roads have just washed away, those roads had to be cordoned off,” she said. 

“In La Lucia, one resident was shocked over the damage to his property on which he recently spent at least R4 million in renovations.

“In another suburb, we had to evacuate 10 houses. Residents are joining each other to help where they can. There are areas with no electricity or water and some areas do not have both.

“We have seen eThekwini working to restore electricity and water to areas as best they can. Right now, it is really bad, it is like taking one step forward and 10 steps back,” said Bollman.

Ward 59 councillor Nkosiyezwe Mhlongo said it was “devastating” that a mother and her four-year-old child had died when their house collapsed during the storm.

“There has been terrible damage to many houses and the infrastructure of the area. We have opened two centres for the community to stay in. We are saddened by the loss of two people in our ward; they were sleeping when the storm started. We are calling disaster management to step in and assist the family,” said Mhlongo.

Ward 60 councillor Yogis Govender said that in Tongaat, the damage included mudslides, damaged property, vehicles that were washed away and submerged bridges. She said the area is always affected by the flooding because it is situated on a floodplain.

“There are two people that are unaccounted for in Verulam. The residents have been left without water and have to rely on a tanker along with contending with the damage to their properties. Verulam had massive road closures, mudslides and electricity outages.”

The surprise storm and magnitude of the heavy rainfall has come as a shock to residents who claim neither the South African Weather Services nor eThekweni’s disaster management services issued a storm and flood warning. 

“Disaster management of the city was completely lacking in their responses and activation of critical assistance,” said Govender.

“Dozens of calls to the emergency call centre went unanswered and in some instances emergency services simply said they could not access northern areas like Verulam and Tongaat due to flooding. This is in stark contrast to community and private search and rescue efforts on the ground. They worked tirelessly until the early hours of the morning assisting in the pouring rain and flood hazard areas.” 

The KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance department said disaster response teams are working to deliver relief aid, including blankets, mattresses and “B-Boxes” that contain personal hygiene amenities.

The metro has dispatched water tanks to affected areas and work teams are clearing debris from roads, including fallen trees.

“Our preliminary reports indicate that in eThekwini metro 250 households and 1 000 people directly affected at this stage; 70 households and 300 people in KwaDukuza and a further 70 households in Ndwedwe [municipalities],” the department said in a statement.

MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi said she was devastated by yet another deadly weather-related disaster in in the province and that her department was co-ordinating response and relief efforts with the municipalities, Eskom and the departments of social development, home affairs, human settlements and education to provide a “comprehensive response”, she said.

Security service Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa) said it had received 175 calls for assistance from residents of northern Durban and surrounding areas.

Rusa’s Prem Balram said on Sunday afternoon that they conducted a search and rescue mission with a helicopter for stranded and missing flood victims.

“We received multiple calls from people who needed assistance. Due to damaged infrastructure, no contact has been made with hundreds of people living in low-lying areas. The pilot and crew will continue searching areas that have been severely affected by the storm.
“Members of Rusa and other private emergency services worked through the night responding to calls for help, with people being rescued from trees and semi-submerged vehicles.”

The Witness