Roads flooded, buildings washed away in latest Durban downpour

While hundreds of residents of flood-hit parts of Durban have been left homeless by the heavy rains which hit the KwaZulu-Natal coast on Saturday and Sunday, no deaths have been reported despite mudslides and massive damage to roads and infrastructure.

The north of Durban – including the communities of La Mercy, Umdloti and Seatides – appear to have been the worst hit in the weekend’s rains, which had spurred the South African Weather Services (SAWS) to issue a level 10 alert by Saturday  morning.

Unlike the floods last month, which claimed more than 440 lives, early warnings – and their experience – appear to have kept Durban residents off the roads during the rains, which were expected to last until Sunday night.

Low lying areas in the south of the city – including Isipingo – were flooded overnight, while roads were washed away in parts of Pinetown, to the west of the city, which had also been hammered badly in last month’s downpours.

La Mercy, north of Durban, has effectively been cut off after the collapse of parts of the road linking the area to the N2. Access from the south was cut off in last month’s floods and has not yet been restored.

Residents of an old aged home at La Mercy had to be evacuated on Saturday night because of flooding, while nearby Umdloti was again hit hard by rain and mudslides, which have once more blocked access to the holiday town and have caused homes and several units at a block of flats to be washed away.

Addressing a media briefing on Sunday, cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka said that there was still no comprehensive report on the impact of the latest rains, but that a “worrying” picture was emerging.

Hlomuka said that while all the coastal municipalities had been placed on alert due to the level 10 warning issued by the SAWS, the areas hit worst were eThekwini and the north east of the province.

He said water levels were being closely monitored in areas which were prone to flooding and that warnings issued overnight had assisted in keeping people off the roads.

Around 250 people had been evacuated at Tongaat and at Te Huis near Umlazi and had been taken to some of the city’s 82 care centres, which had been opened along with all municipal halls in order to accommodate those who had lost their homes this weekend.

Hlomuka said a number of people had been evacuated in the Ilembe district, north of Durban, where roads and bridges had also been damaged in flooding, while homes had been damaged in the King Cetshwayo District.

The Red Cross and other organisations were assisting with feeding and providing relief to displaced people in Durban. Community halls had been placed on standby to accommodate people who might still have to evacuate from low-lying areas. 

Search and rescue personnel were on standby to assist in looking for any missing persons, although Hlomuka said that thus far no reports of people being washed away by floodwaters had been received.

At the time of writing, the eThekwini Municipality executive committee was holding an emergency online meeting in order to try and establish an overall picture of the extent of the damage to infrastructure and homes and the need for humanitarian relief.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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