More than 300 people have been died in flooding in South Africa’s eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, which includes the major city of Durban.
The official death toll currently stands at 341 but is expected to rise over the coming days, with a large number of people yet to be accounted for.
The floods are the result of downpours in the region this week and further heavy rain is predicted for the coming days, increasing the risk of further flooding and hampering rescue efforts.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the area, describing the flooding as a “catastrophe of enormous proportions”. The president also made it very clear that the climate crisis was responsible for the severe weather.
“It is telling us that climate change is serious, it is here,” Ramaphosa said. “We no longer can postpone what we need to do, and the measures we need to take to deal with climate change”.
The president is convening an emergency cabinet meeting to declare the floods a national disaster and provide funding for both rescue and clean up efforts. The damage to eThekwini metropolitan area, which includes Durban, is estimated at $52 million according to eThekwini Mayor Mxolosi Kaunda.
Meteorologists seem to have been caught off guard by the volume of rain in the region. A statement from the South African weather service said that whilst heavy rains had been expected the total volume “exceeded even the expectations of the southern African meteorological community at large”.
The search for survivors continues, with rescue attempts impeded by the continuing bad weather. The military was unable to deploy helicopters to the area until conditions improved, with deployment only becoming possible on Wednesday.
Meanwhile electricity and clean water supplies remain down for most in the region. Authorities are working to restore power after a number of stations succumbed to the floods but warned this may take a week. Relief workers have been distributing clean drinking water to affected residents.
Along with the multitude of problems facing those living in the region, survivors were also threatened with the prospect of crocodiles lurking in the water, after more than a dozen were washed away from a farm. Authorities reported though that this particular danger had been averted, with all of the animals recaptured.