DURBAN (Reuters) – South Africans were searching for survivors on Friday of floods that killed almost 400 people, according to the latest tally, washing away homes and roads and leaving thousands without shelter, water and power. By Rogan Ward.
The floods in Kwazulu-Natal Province have knocked out power lines, shut down water services and disrupted operations at one of Africa’s busiest ports. The death toll rose to 395 on Friday from an earlier estimate of 341.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana told TV station Newsroom Afrika that an initial R1-billion rand ($68.3 million) for emergency relief was available for immediate use, after the KZN province was declared a disaster area.
Local authorities have estimated the damage at several billion rand and reported sporadic looting – in a city still recovering from a catastrophic outbreak of rioting and looting last July. Many of the worst-affected are in poor, unplanned, informal settlements vulnerable to flooding.
Tragedy of 13,600 homeless
Authorities said about 13,600 people had been made homeless by the floods.
“I feel empty, lost and alone. I think I’m losing my mind,” said Winnie Hlakanyana, 51, after her five-room shack in Kwazulu-Natal’s Gandhi settlement was totally destroyed, leaving her and six of her children homeless.
“I wish I’d just died because I cannot handle starting from scratch. Seeing all my hard-earned furniture washed away and my home covered in mud. I can never get (it) out of my mind.”
“I feel numb” says grief-stricken mother who lost her daughters
Bonakele Mtshali was away at a funeral when the flash floods swept her iron-roof shack off the hillside in Lindelani township, taking two of her girls with it.
She had been searching with a growing sense of foreboding since Monday’s disaster. Then her elder son, Zamani, 23, got a call on Thursday from some other townspeople who had discovered a body by the river. It was Baphiwe, her 17-year-old.
There is still no sign of Mtshali’s 11-year-old daughter, Ntwenhle. She has lost hope of finding her alive in her township by a river on the outskirts of Durban.
“I feel numb, blank and still empty,” she told Reuters at the wreckage of her home which had collapsed into a pile of rubble falling into a gash in the earth.
“There is nothing I can do except to keep looking for my youngest…”
Volunteers clean up beaches
Local TV stations showed volunteers clearing plastic containers, piles of bamboo and driftwood from Durban beachfront. On other beaches, a Reuters witness said holidaymakers were taking advantage of a lull before the rains were due to resume later on Friday.
More than 40,000 people have been affected by the disaster, authorities say.
Scientists believe the southeastern coast of Africa is becoming more vulnerable to violent storms and floods as human emissions of heat-trapping gases cause the Indian Ocean to warm. They expect the trend to worsen dramatically in coming decades.
Local climate campaigners are calling for greater investment to help communities better prepare for weather shocks.
At a silent procession in Durban to mark the start of the Easter weekend, Christian worshippers laid flowers on a cross.
“There are so many reasons to lose hope at this time,” Raymond Perry, a director of Christian charity The Dennis Hurley Centre. “(But) … even in the face of despair there is hope.”
How to Help KZN Floods Victims
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? Click: www.giftofthegivers.org/make-a-difference, reference ‘KZN Floods’
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(Editing by Gareth Jones and Hugh Lawson)