South Africa’s flood-ravaged east was hit by more rain on Saturday after the deadliest storm to hit the country in living memory killed nearly 400 people and left tens of thousands homeless.
Floodwaters engulfed parts of the eastern coastal city of Durban earlier in the week ripping apart roads, sweeping away homes and those trapped inside them, and pulling down heavy cargo containers.
Emergency services in the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, where Durban is located, were on high alert as weather forecasters predicted more rain over the Easter weekend.
“It’s already raining in some parts of KZN but it won’t be as hectic as it was in the past few days,” Puseletso Mofokeng, senior forecaster at the South Africa Weather Service told AFP.
“But because of the soil being oversaturated with water, we can still get a lot of flooding,” he warned.
The provincial government said on Friday that disaster management teams were on “high alert to swiftly respond to communities known to be at high risk, to avert or minimise the disaster impact”.
Troops, police and volunteer rescue workers are operating from a small civilian airport normally used for air shows and for training pilots.
“We are fully prepared,” said Dave Steyn, a senior police officer coordinating rescue and recovery operations at the airport.
Shawn Herbst of the first responder company Netcare 911 told AFP: “Sadly there are still bodies being recovered from homesteads, especially from the rural areas.”
“There is still damage taking place, especially with the rain we are experiencing today which is aggravating the areas that have been damaged”.
The floods have damaged more than 13,500 houses and completely destroyed around 4,000.
Authorities have urged people in high risk areas to move to community facilities such as halls and schools.
Clean water is scarce and authorities have promised to deploy water tankers.
The government has announced one billion rand (US$68mn) in emergency relief funding.
“Just as we thought it was safe to get out of (the COVID) disaster, we have another disaster, a natural disaster descending on our country,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a Good Friday speech.
The floods are “a catastrophe of enormous proportions… not seen before in our country”.
More than 4,000 police have been deployed to affected areas to support relief efforts and maintain law and order.
“We are actually standing by at hospitals if needed” said Garrith Jamieson, director of the Durban-based ALS Paramedics Medical Services.
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