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South Africa: Over 250 dead after severe floods

April 13, 2022

A government official says flooding in KwaZulu-Natal province has caused the deaths of 259 people. Many people are still missing and thousands of others have been displaced.

A woman stands at her front door after heavy rains caused flood damage in Durban, South Africa
Flooding has not only caused a devastating human toll, but has also impacted infrastructure and businesses in the province of KwaZulu-NatalImage: ROGAN WARD/REUTERS

Flooding in South Africa's eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal has killed at least 259 people, officials announced on Wednesday. The latest figure eclipses the previous number of 59 fatalities reported by government.

Earlier on Wednesday, the province's health chief Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu told local news station eNCA that late on Tuesday over 250 bodies had been received at mortuary facilities.

"As of late last night, we had received something close to 253 bodies in our two different mortuaries," Simelane-Zulu said. The minister confirmed the figure when asked by the eNCA reporter and said they were directly linked to the floods.

That number rose a short while later with the spokeswoman for disaster management confirming that the number had now hit 259 deaths.

DW's Adrian Kriesch reports from Durban

Heavy rain causes flooding and landslides

The torrential rain has caused homes to collapse and hillsides have been swept away.

DW correspondent Adrian Kriesch is in the port city of Durban and tweeted from the scene where homes had caved in on families sheltering inside.

"Shocking and sad how many kids died during the floods. Those are the books of 10-year-old Ayanda, her room collapsed on her. In the neighbors house three people passed away. An old lady with her two grandchildren. The youngest was three." 

South Africa's president has pledged support to those affected.

"President Cyril Ramaphosa is currently here, he's talking to the residents, assessing their needs trying to help. At the moment the government says the major challenge is find all the victims but also assist those who lost their houses," Kriesch said.

According to local government officials, many people are unaccounted for.

Stranded people stand in front of a bridge that was swept away in Ntuzuma, outside Durban
Houses, roads and bridges have been swept away in flooding caused by record rainfall in South AfricaImage: AP/picture alliance

Record rainfall continues falling

Rain has continued to fall in parts of the province and flood warnings have also been issued in the neighboring province of the Eastern Cape.

Torrential rain swamped communities in the coastal city and surrounding areas over the past few days. According to the South African Weather Service more than 300 millimetres (13 inches) fell on Monday, making it the heaviest total of rainfall seen in a single day in 60 years.

"Some areas in KwaZulu-Natal have received more than double the maximum rainfall recorded during previous record rainfalls," the service's spokeswoman, Hannelee Doubell, told AFP news agency.

KwaZulu-Natal was one of the worst-affected provinces in last years outbreak of violence and looting in July, which saw at least 330 people killed. The violence broke out after the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, for failing to appear before an inquiry into corruption during his presidency.

kb/rs (AFP, Reuters)