By Tony Carnie and Bronwyn Gerretsen

Angry seas and towering seven-metre-high waves off KwaZulu-Natal subsided briefly on Monday night after inflicting the worst flood damage in many years.

And while the worst seems to be over, there were still concerns that the sea might deliver another blow during Tuesday's early morning high tide, scheduled to peak at around 4.10am.

Emergency staff were on standby to evacuate residents along several parts of the coast, though Durban officials said there was no reason for panic.

Andrew Mather, the city's project chief for coastal policy, said: "This was the most spectacular sea I have ever seen off Durban, but the good news is that the worst seems to be over."

He said Ballito seemed to be the most severely affected area. Margate and Durban's central beachfront were also badly damaged.

The eThekwini Municipality closed off entrances to all beaches after early morning damage was caused to properties and businesses. Emergency services were on standby for further wind and wave damage along the city's coastline.

Emergency services battled to evacuate thousands of residents and sightseers along the Dolphin Coast on Monday after the severely destroyed beaches had become a local attraction.

Numerous North Coast beachfront properties were damaged, with some buildings and residential swimming pools collapsing under the pressure of the huge waves and eroding sands.

The first waves that hit the coast in the early hours left a trail of destruction, and emergency workers tried to avoid casualties by evacuating people before the afternoon waves hit the shore.

However, onlookers were more concerned with taking photographs and staring at the sea.

The Chief Fire Officer for the KwaDukuza Municipality, Adrian Barnes, said people were "completely blase" about the situation and were not co-operating with emergency workers.

Some restaurants along the beachfront were seriously damaged and were closed for the day.

Barnes said arrangements had been made for those people evacuated from their homes to spend the night in halls and churches, but it was difficult to mobilise people living on the beachfront to make their way to the alternative accommodation.

ER24 spokesperson Neil Noble said beachfront properties had been seriously damaged and there were even cases of telephone poles having fallen on to people's beds.

On the South Coast, six camp sites at the Scottburgh Caravan Park were flooded and people had to be relocated to other areas of the park.

The mini train on the main beach was washed away. The tidal pool was also under water.

Port Shepstone Country Club was heavily flooded. Some North Coast houses were half covered by sand.

Several people were helped or rescued. The body of a 30-year-old man was found washed up at Shelly Beach, on the South Coast.

He was believed to have been washed out to sea by the huge waves and strong current.

Addington Hospital had been placed on high alert, the provincial health department said on Monday night.

People seeking medical attention were urged to go to other institutions as preparations were being made should the need arise to evacuate the hospital.

In Durban, a disaster management joint operations committee had been formed, made up of senior officials from Metro Police, South African Police Services, as well as city's Emergency Services, Electricity, Water, Communications, Roads, Engineering and Parks and Recreation departments.

The drama started at about 4am on Monday when huge waves, up to seven metres high, slammed into the Durban beachfront, smashing the windows of several restaurants and causing chaos among staff waiting to knock off after their late night shifts.

The waves also tore chunks of concrete off the end of the promenade at Blue Lagoon and left the car park littered with rubble and debris.

Deputy Mayor Logie Naidoo said officials were worried about the number of people and vehicles crowding towards the beaches.

The public can report emergencies at 031 361 0000.

Further north, at Richards Bay, two large cargo ships collided during the weekend after they had dragged anchors in heavy winds.

The collision involved the 38 000 ton general bulk vessel the Angela Star and the 35 000 ton Greek cargo vessel Theareston.

Although no one was believed to have been injured, the Angela Star was reported to be heading to Durban Harbour for repairs, while the Theareston was still offshore at Richards Bay.

The early morning storm ripped out almost every shark net between Richards Bay and Port Edward.

Heavy seas also washed away a river boat and damaged the pathways leading to cottages at the popular Umngazi River Bungalows, near Port St Johns.