The death toll in KwaZulu-Natal has risen to at least 40 following storms in December and early January that left a trail of death and destruction in various parts of the province.
This is according to the KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).
Cogta spokesperson Siboniso Mngadi said the death toll had increased as the department’s teams continue with assessments in different areas.
“As our teams continue with assessments, the number of people who have tragically passed away has increased to 40, with five still reported as missing,” he said.
In recent incidents, Mngadi said, three drownings were reported in the Harry Gwala District, while two farmworkers were killed when they were struck by lightning in Bergville.
“We also confirm that two people have been discovered by the search-and-rescue teams in Ladysmith. However, their identities are pending confirmation,” he said.
According to the department, the rains have also left 74 people injured.
Some were transported to hospitals, while others were treated on the scene.
“About 800 households suffered damage, with a total of 247 dwellings completely destroyed. This has left 47 people homeless, and over 4 000 people have been affected.”
Meanwhile, in Durban on January 2, a Good Samaritan disappeared while attempting to help two people who were stuck in their vehicle after it was washed down the uMngeni River in KwaDabeka while crossing a low-lying bridge.
While the occupants of the vehicle were saved during a “daring rescue” by emergency services over a period of several hours due to the complexity of the rope system required and the fast-flowing water, the bystander who tried to assist the occupants could not be found.
IPSS Search and Rescue said a missing persons report was opened with SAPS and a 7km search had been conducted down the river with no success.
IPSS, which played a big role in the recovery operations in Ladysmith in partnership with the Al-Imdaad Foundation, announced a breakthrough in the search for the body on Saturday.
However, this has not yet been confirmed by the authorities.
“The body of the bystander who was washed down river while attempting to assist the couple in the vehicle has been recovered by members of SAPS Search and Rescue today (Saturday). Our condolences to the friends and family of the deceased.”
Cogta MEC Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi offered her condolences to the bereaved families.
The MEC said the department had been in contact with all those affected and was providing necessary support as part of the disaster relief efforts, working together with its social partners.
Sithole-Moloi said the department appreciated the commitment shown by the rescue team led by the SAPS K9 Unit with the support of the Al-Imdaad Foundation, South African Red Cross and IPSS Search and Rescue who made it possible to recover most people who had been reported missing.
“We would like to commend our search-and-rescue teams, who continue to work tirelessly on the ground to locate those reported missing. While the loss of loved ones is a painful experience, we find solace in the closure that comes when search-and-rescue teams recover the remains of those who were missing.
“Some families have already laid their loved ones to rest, and as a department we have been by their side, providing support. We also wish a speedy recovery to those who have been injured,” Sithole-Moloi said.