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KwaZulu-Natal mourns; fixing the province will cost billions

One of the flood victims, Thoko Tshilase explains the horrific experience they had trying to escape the floods with their children. Tshilase and other flood victims were allocated the Isipingo civic hall for shelter, after their homes were washed away. Picture:Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency (ANA)

One of the flood victims, Thoko Tshilase explains the horrific experience they had trying to escape the floods with their children. Tshilase and other flood victims were allocated the Isipingo civic hall for shelter, after their homes were washed away. Picture:Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 19, 2022

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BY: ZAINUL DAWOOD, THOBEKA NGEMA AND NOMVELO MKHWANAZI

Durban - Politicians and relief agencies are criss-crossing the province to see the devastation first-hand.

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On Monday IFP president Velenkosini Hlabisa accompanied by IFP members visited the eThekwini region to inspect areas and visit families devastated by the floods and offer support to those in need. The IFP pledged R250 000 to the Gift of the Givers for humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts.

At the Isipingo Beach Civic Centre, Hlabisa met displaced residents from the Dakota informal settlement. Hlabisa heard the challenges the residents faced in the informal settlement before the flooding and while living in the civic hall where they were being housed now.

Resident Thoko Tshilase spoke about the lack of facilities at the hall including not having blankets, toilets for 200 people and mattresses to sleep on. Others like Zintle Nodlinvongo spoke of losing all their possessions including identity documents and their children’s school uniforms and stationery.

“We had been living on bread on a daily basis. We do not have baby formula. We are grateful to the Muslim community for all the help they have given us,” Nodlinvongo said.

IFP President Velenkosini Hlabisa, MPL visited the eThekwini region to inspect areas and visit families devastated by the recent floods. He hands over food parcels at the Isipingo Beach Civic Centre. Picture supplied

The eThekwini Community Participation Unit’s Isipingo delegate, Angie Pakkiri explained to the delegation that the displaced residents were housed at a school for 24 hours and then moved to the hall. She said approximately 200 people arrived with only the clothes on their backs in the rain.

In an area adjoining the Isipingo river mouth, more than 150 houses were submerged during the flood. Hlabisa saw first-hand the damage caused and spoke to residents about mopping-up operations that were under way.

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Life Saving South Africa spokesperson Jayce Govender said people were rescued from their homes by boats.

“Very little seems to be happening on the ground with disaster management or communication with communities, as many are still left homeless and vast areas have had no water or electricity since the flood damage. It is further alleged that no structure has been established to co-ordinate the relief efforts. People have lost their lives and livelihoods. Now is not the time to believe our existing disaster management structure will function effectively,” said DA leader in KZN Francois Rodgers.

DA eThekwini chief whip, councillor Thabani Mthethwa said there was a vacuum regarding information in communities, which was causing frustration. He called for daily executive committee (exco) meetings to allow officials and chairpersons of committees to brief the exco on developments.

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Premier Sihle Zikalala said billions of rands will be required to rebuild the province. He said most citizens are recovering from post-traumatic stress following the disaster.

He said on Saturday alone, search and rescue teams in KZN received 38 call-outs to disaster scenes and six bodies were recovered. Approximately 63 persons are missing or unaccounted for. The death toll now stands at 443. He said a number of areas experienced water disruptions. A war room has been established to restore services.

The SA Social Security Agency has made funding to the tune of R1 900 per household available for burial support. This excludes the funding to be provided to cover funeral costs by the province, municipalities and private donors.

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With regard to mortuaries, Zikalala said doctors have completed 243 post-mortems, and are left with 114 more to complete.

“We have mobilised additional resources, including seven doctors, to ensure that post-mortems are completed.”

A total of 551 schools have been affected. About 98 of these will need mobile classrooms when schools open while others require cleaning and minor repairs.

The Department of Human Settlements has made R1 billion available for assistance. There is a total of 8 329 houses that are partially damaged, and 3 937 completely destroyed.

“All the resources allocated for flood relief and the recovery and rebuilding process will be utilised in line with fiscal rectitude, accountability, transparency and openness. We want to emphasise the fact that, having learnt lessons of Covid-19, no amount of corruption, maladministration and fraud will be tolerated or associated with this province,” Zikalala said.

The preliminary estimated cost of road infrastructure damage is R5.6bn and includes 1 369 infrastructure projects across the province. On Monday MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works, Jomo Sibiya said they would work with speed and efficiency during the roll-out of relief packages for the rebuilding of homes and setting up of temporary residential units.

“We have a clear plan and commitment to ensure that money is used for its intended purpose.”

Deputy Minister of Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu urged South Africans to consider people with disabilities as relief measures were implemented. She is visiting facilities in KZN for people with disabilities that were affected by the floods.

“JEP Home for the blind, in Durban, was flooded and submerged underwater. The water levels caused disorientation to the blind residents who were not able to get out of the flooded house. I express my gratitude to the neighbours who heard their cries and assisted the caregivers to get all 24 blind people out of the house.”

Jay Sewpersad's house where the water had reached shoulder height. Picture:Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency (ANA)

About 58 health-care facilities have been damaged and clinics and hospitals have been treating a higher number of trauma and emergency patients than usual.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said the damage to critical infrastructure such as roads, water and power supply systems continues to pose further challenges to the restoration of normal operations at some health facilities.

Simelane applauded health workers who had worked hard to save lives and had been working throughout the flood crisis, despite the challenges.

The health department has put in place contingency measures including increasing the number of pathologists in order to speed up the processing and completion of post-mortems.

“Having conducted a thorough assessment of the damage, we are now finalising internal administrative processes to source funding so that repair work can commence without further delay. This will be in line with the declaration of a disaster by the president and all relevant regulations,” said the MEC.

She said most health facilities are fully functional and providing services to patients, with the exception of those experiencing water supply challenges.

Zikalala said that this has received priority attention and the problem was largely resolved.

“The department remains on high alert for water-borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and malaria. We have asked the department to look into the possibility of providing temporary or mobile clinics to ensure that people don't run out of chronic medications and are serviced during this period of a disaster,” Zikalala said.

National deputy chairperson of the Treatment Action Campaign and KZN Civil Society chairperson, Patrick Mdletshe said that the flooding has created a barrier for chronic patients who collected medication from their local clinics. He said that were plans to bring mobile clinics to most affected areas to accommodate whoever was in need of medical attention.

As the week begins some schools will not be able to open on Tuesday, according to the education department, which said that 630 schools were affected and 101 were not accessible. It said 57 pupils had died, as well as a teacher and a food handler.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga is to visit the province on Tuesday to assess the extent of the damage caused by the floods and to meet with the provincial education department.

Sergeant Busisiwe Mjwara was conducting a search in the Msunduzi River for three victims who had drowned when she got into difficulty and drowned. | Supplied

The SAPS is mourning the deaths of two police officers and a police dog during the KwaZulu-Natal floods.

National police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said the national police commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, has expressed sadness about the deaths of the SAPS members.

Mathe said the latest casualty was an officer attached to the Pietermaritzburg Search and Rescue police diving unit.

“At about 11.30am on Sunday morning, 42-year-old Sergeant Busisiwe Mjwara was conducting a search in the Msunduzi River for three victims who had drowned earlier in the week, when she got into difficulty and drowned. She was airlifted to a nearby hospital but was sadly declared dead on arrival.

“During the same operation, K9 Leah from the Durban Central Search and Rescue unit also drowned. According to reports, Leah was attempting to assist Sergeant Mjwara when she also experienced difficulties,” Mathe said.

K9 Leah. | Supplied

“The third member, 31-year-old Constable Thandazile Sithole, who was attached to the Durban Central police station, died when her home collapsed on her earlier this (last) week.”

Mathe said at least 30 police officers were affected by the floods, with some injured and many displaced after their homes were washed away.

Sithole was off-duty at her home with her five-year-old son and her roommates when heavy rainfall caused a landslide.

“Trees and rocks were washed away by heavy rains that caused the officer’s residence to fall. The house was therefore washed away with the officer inside. The room-mates managed to evacuate the house together with the officer’s son, and unfortunately, the officer couldn't make it to safety,” police said.

The eThekwini Fire Department, K9 unit, Metro Police and other police officers searched for the officer.

“At about 11am, the officer was found stuck in the debris and had died,” police said.

Constable Thandazile Sithole. | Supplied

On Saturday, Masemola led a delegation of senior managers from the Visible Policing and Operational Service Division, who spent the day assessing the organisation's operational response in providing support to the eThekwini district.

Additional members and resources from the SAPS Search and Rescue units in neighbouring provinces have been roped in to bolster search-and-rescue operations. The SAPS Airwing, K9 and police diving units as well as front-line officers have formed part of the government's efforts to strengthen support to affected areas.

Masemola said the deaths of the SAPS members was a blow to the organisation.

“On behalf of the SAPS, let me take this opportunity to thank the deceased members for their service to the nation. These members died heroines, putting their country first. My heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends and colleagues of the two members, K9 Leah and those members who have lost their loved ones. A speedy recovery to those who have been injured as well as those who have lost their homes and belongings,” Masemola said.

Members of the Employee Health and Wellness unit have since been dispatched to provide psychosocial as well as trauma debriefing counselling services to all affected areas including police stations and units.

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