DURBAN - President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Chatsworth in Durban on Wednesday morning where he met family of the eight people who died in the flash flood there this week.
The president had cut short a visit to Egypt after heavy rains, leading to widespread flooding and deadly mudslides, claimed at least 51 lives in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and left hundreds more homeless.
"We are saddened by what happened here, the loss of life is never something that pleases anyone particularly as it happens unexpectedly. But we also want to commend the rescue services both at national level, at provincial level and at local government level," said Ramaphosa while visiting the flood-hit areas.
"Our hearts go out to all those families and all our people who have been very badly affected with this. The force of nature is so huge and this is partly what climate change is about, that it just hits when we least expect it."
The president said Treasury would release money to help fund disaster relief efforts in the province.
"These are emergency situations that we budget for. So resources will be mobilised in the biggest ways so that our people who are currently in need are assisted."
The president said he would visit the Eastern Cape next. Some parts of the province were also hit by flooding.
Lennox Mbatha, spokesman for the KZN Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), said Ramaphosa later left for Burlington, also in east Durban, where about 200 people have been displaced by flooding.
Jakes Singh, chairman of the Chatsworth Community Policing Forum, said the eight people, including several children, died when a mudslide demolished the caretaker's quarters at Westcliff Secondary School on Monday night.
He said residents, police and the emergency services worked through Monday night and much of Tuesday to clear the debris so they could reach the bodies.
One person was rescued from the brick-and-asbestos structure late on Monday and one of the eight bodies was recovered on the same night.
He said Cosmo Plant hire brought an excavator and a truck-and-crane to the site to help lift away the walls and collapsed roof.
Singh also paid tribute to the local AFM Miracle Tabernacle church which helped with the recovery operation and accommodated the family of the deceased.
He said the church's pastor, Jonathan Naidoo, joined the president during his visit to pray for the deceased and their loved ones.
Singh said Ramaphosa would also be visiting the nearby Bottlebrush informal settlement where the floods destroyed scores of shacks, leaving at least 200 people homeless and an unconfirmed death toll of five.
He said the Chatsworth community had been helping the homeless there. "We housed them at a creche and a hall at Bottlebrush. Arrangements have been made for more accommodation," said Singh.
He said the flooding had caused considerable damage in Chatsworth and its surrounds and mentioned Montford, where a staircase and bank collapsed, trapping a family in their home. The fire department had to cut through a boundary retaining wall to free them.
African News Agency (ANA)