KZN floods leave at least 45 dead; eThekwini mayor says priority is to save lives

KwaZulu-Natal head of co-operative governance and traditional affairs Sipho Hlomuka on Tuesday confirmed at least 45 people had died as a result of the heavy rains and flooding that have hit the eThekwini metro municipality over the past four days.

Hlomuka spoke on Newzroom Afrika just after eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda told reporters that landfill centres, major power plants and water-treatment centres had been flooded, disabling services to communities.

“Our infrastructure teams have been sent out and are working 24 hours to ensure services can be reinstated throughout the city,” Kaunda said, urging residents to leave their houses if they were endangered or vulnerable.

“It is better to leave than to be washed away with the house. We understand it is hard to leave your homes, but the priority is to save people’s lives,” the mayor said.

Healthcare facilities and mobile clinics are currently not operational because of the severe weather, which meant staff were unable to get to work because of road closures, eThekwini spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said.

Mobile telecommunications company MTN said 500 of its sites around the region had suffered infrastructure damage, with depleted batteries posing challenges to customers trying to reach friends and family. 

The municipality has deployed disaster relief teams over all the affected areas, also  asking the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), as well as nonprofit organisations (NPOs) and NGOs to intervene.

“The SANDF has been deployed to the disaster because the event is beyond our capacity. Other provinces are providing aid; Cape Town has supplied a helicopter,” Kaunda told journalists. 

Ward 33 councillor Sakhile Mngadi said River Drive has been declared a disaster area, and warned residents to stay clear of low-lying areas. 

“Do not try to be a hero. It takes very little water to get swept away. There are already reports of deaths (none in our ward yet),” Mngadi posted on an official Whatsapp group.

The eThekwini municipality is opening community halls to accommodate residents affected by the floods, said Mngadi. As of Tuesday, halls in Clermont, New Germany, Waterloo, oThongathi, Amawoti and Marrianridge were open to those affected.

“We are working with NGOs and NPOs to supply meals and blankets to those in community halls,” Kaunda said.

Humanitarian aid group Gift of the Givers is assisting residents in affected areas, founder Imtiaz Sooliman said.

“Gift of the Givers teams are currently in Tongaat, where a lady and three children were washed away tragically. Three bodies have been found; one child is still missing. There is substantial destruction in the area,” Sooliman said.

He said the aid group was assessing areas of severe damage in which to intervene, where there was jurisdiction to do so, including low-lying areas, informal settlements and areas in which people were not insured. 

“Our criteria are clear: roads, bridges, drainage and public infrastructure are a governmental responsibility, though Gift of the Givers will possibly consider schools and health infrastructure for repair. Private homes and businesses should be covered by insurance companies,” Sooliman added. 

Numbers to call if you are affected by the flooding

Disaster-management centres

Call: 031 367 0000 or 031 367 0039 

Water outages

Call or WhatsApp: 073 148 3477

Email: [email protected]

Electricity outages 

Call or WhatsApp: 076 791 2449Email: [email protected]

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Kimberley Schoeman
Kimberley Schoeman is a sophisticated and eccentric wordsmith at the Mail & Guardian. A tastemaker in the making, she is in pursuit of the best in culture, fashion, and style.

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