Durban - As the flood's death toll reached 306, the South African Weather Service has warned rain is expected to return to many provinces ahead of and during Easter weekend.
The warning comes as the water supply in most parts of KwaZulu-Natal has been disrupted and some residents are relying on a defunct water tanker distribution scheme and standpipes while some are buying bottled water from stores.
The coastal province has been lashed by heavy rain, which, according to provincial authorities, has left a trail of destruction affecting infrastructure, homes and businesses.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited flood-ravaged areas of KZN where he was briefed by Premier Sihle Zikalala on the extent of damage and the disaster. Ramaphosa visited Clermont, Lindelani, eNtuzuma, eMawoti and uMzinyathi to assess the damage as well as to interact with affected families and communities and convey his condolences.
Ramaphosa said the government would help affected families.
In Clermont, Durban, the United Methodist Church of Southern Africa collapsed during heavy rains, which resulted in a home with several rented rooms being flooded. Four members of the Mkhize and Sokhela families died. They were Nhlanhla Mkhize, 28, Olwethu Sokhela,12, Luyanda Sokhela, 16, and Lwazi Sokhela, 14.
Ramaphosa met Gerald Mkhize, 68, the head of the household, who said the family was devastated. He also met some families who were left with just the clothes on their backs.
Ward councillor Miriam Madlala explained to Ramaphosa they needed aid urgently to begin to rebuild homes and clear blocked roads.
Ramaphosa addressed the grieving families in front of the church yard. In the background the church laid in ruins and soil below several houses was washed away.
Ramaphosa said they will provide aid and relief to those who had been affected.
“I wanted to visit this area to see what has occurred… and I can see that (following the floods) this area is in a very bad state. A great tragedy has befallen you, one that we have not seen in a long time. The most painful effect of these floods is that many lives have been lost, people’s homes have been destroyed, streets, bridges and churches have been destroyed.
“We are here to see this for ourselves and to assess how the government can intervene and where the government can step in to help,” he said.
“You are not alone on this journey. We will walk with you. We will help you in all the ways that we can. We know that your hearts are broken because of what has happened but we are here to say that we are with you,” Ramaphosa said.
The floods also had an impact on the economy of the country and tourism in the province. Access roads around the Port of Durban have been damaged, container yards, truck depots and trucks themselves have been flooded and damaged, and the area is a disaster area at the moment, said Road Freight Association chief executive officer Gavin Kelly.
He said authorities had requested that, where possible, all freight movements (trucks) towards the port be suspended/stopped until the situation at the port had improved. “No foreseeable shortages in foodstuffs and fuel are expected. Logistics operations will be impacted: there will be delivery disruptions for goods being imported.”
The president of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nigel Ward said some infrastructure damage might take years to repair, which will hamper the economy that is still reeling from the July 2021 unrest. From a tourism perspective, Ward said, “the reality is we are still trying to mop up and it’s going to be tough but we want to encourage the people to come here if the roadways are safe and as we try to get the beaches cleaned up”.
He said role-players have gone a long way to try and promote the brand, Tourism KZN. He said Easter weekend is one of the calendar events that attract people but the flooding “will make it difficult for the kickstart we were looking for in the economy after Covid-19 and the civil unrest”.