/ 17 January 2024

Emergency services in overdrive as rain batters already flood-hit Durban

Emergency services have reported multiple accidents and injuries on wet and flooded roads. Photo supplied

KwaZulu-Natal paramedics had their hands full on Wednesday, having to attend to multiple accidents along major and secondary roads as heavy rains again battered the province, which is still reeling from flooding over the past week. 

The South African Weather Service issued a level 5 warning for disruptive rains and possible flooding in the province.

“Significant rainfall is expected and given the recent flooding across the province, the soil is still saturated. More than 80mm of rainfall accumulation is predicted in some places along the coast and the northern interior of KZN. There is a high risk of widespread flooding,” warned the weather service. 

A fatal accident was reported on the M7 involving multiple vehicles. Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedics said five people were treated and transported to hospitals, but one police official died at the scene.

The M7 has since been closed in both directions.

ALS paramedics spokesperson Garrith Jamieson said they had attended to multiple scenes, with the common areas being the M7 between Pinetown and the Bluff, the M19 towards Reservoir Hills, the M13 towards Field’s Hill and the M4 south towards Edwin Swales Drive.

According to KZN VIP Protection Services, its staff treated about 20 children on their way to school at the corner of Phoenix Highway and Industrial Park Drive on Wednesday morning.

“Upon arrival of emergency services, there were at least three to four school children that were ejected from the vehicle, the rest sustained minor injuries to moderate injuries,” said spokesperson Gareth Naidoo.

The provincial education department issued a directive for all schools to close at 1pm after it was reported that flooding had made it dangerous for classes to continue. This was the first day back to school after the holidays. 

The heavy rains have also hampered the quality of water delivery, with higher levels of turbidity reported in the treatment of raw water abstracted from the Hazelmere Dam. This has led to decreased volumes and has affected the water supply to the Verulam, La Mercy, Sea Tides, Ndwedwe, Waterloo, Groutville and Ballito areas under the eThekwini metro municipality and the Ilembe district municipality.

“The high raw turbidity has necessitated increased backwashing and desludging to optimise production and achieve the required drinking water quality standards,” said uMngeni-uThukela Water spokesperson Siyabonga Maphumulo.

The water supplier added that although water being supplied has slightly elevated turbidity, “it is still safe to consume and is at less than 10 Nephelometric Turbidity Units which is a measure of the cloudiness of the water”. 

The treatment has no adverse health effects.

The provincial cooperative governance department has advised people living in affected areas to stay indoors and prepare for possible evacuations should weather conditions worsen.

Wednesday’s flooding comes as the province struggles to cope with recent heavy rains that have resulted in 10 people missing and 25 people dead since the beginning of the year.

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.

The weather service has also issued a yellow level 2 warning for severe thunderstorms for parts of Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.