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KwaZulu-Natal’s devastating floods, one month on

South Africa – KwaZulu-Natal – Durban – FLOODS, 11/04/2022 – A biker makes a turn at the bridge between Phoenix and Mawoti. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

South Africa – KwaZulu-Natal – Durban – FLOODS, 11/04/2022 – A biker makes a turn at the bridge between Phoenix and Mawoti. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 11, 2022

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Durban – It has been exactly a month since devastating floods wreaked havoc across the province, leaving many people homeless; with more than 435 dead, others still haven’t been found.

Messages of support and condolences poured in from across the world praying for KwaZulu-Natal while a power delegation, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, visited the province in the aftermath of the disaster.

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Durban was the most affected city with billions in damages to businesses and infrastructure such as roads, bridges, electricity and water caused by the floods.

While the government, NGOs, civil groups, faith-based and other co-operatives and individuals have rallied and pledged their support to assist the victims, hundreds of people are still housed in temporary shelters as they wait for assistance.

The army and search and rescue are still camping in Durban and continue their efforts to find those still missing.

KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala who has been at the forefront in response to the disaster has said while the floods have had a disproportionate and more severe impact on the poorest of the poor in the province, they have been indiscriminate – bringing misery to all, black and white, rich and poor, urban and rural, young and old.

Zikalala confirmed that more than 435 people lost their lives while 63 people are still missing to date.

Over 6,000 people have been left homeless, while 630 schools have been affected, and more than 100 of them are inaccessible. The province was declared a state of the national disaster to enable national Treasury to release funds to assist in rebuilding.

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Tabling the budget before the legislature on Wednesday, Jomo Sibiya, MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works has said R1 billion from his department's R4,1 billion budget will be reprioritised to alleviate the impact of the recent floods.

Sibiya has said while the budget has been tabled for rebuilding, his department has already started building temporary residential units where land is available.

He has stressed challenges the department faces in areas where some communities oppose the plan next to their homes, but it has called on them to co-operate.

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“In eThekwini we have got a problem, whereby there are communities which are refusing that the government uses its own land to build temporary units.

“They have declared their backyard a no-go zone despite the availability of government and municipal land. History will judge us harshly if we prolong the suffering of the communities whose trauma will take a very long time to heal.

“The spirit of Ubuntu must prevail. We are in negotiations with individuals and ratepayers associations who have flatly refused to build temporary residential units for the helpless communities,” Sibiya said.

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“We will show the same integrity that was shown during our quick interventions following the heavy storms in December 2021 and January 2022.

South Africa – KwaZulu-Natal – Durban, FLOODS 27/04/2022 – Nonhlanhla Dandala at a community hall in uMlazi. Picture: Khaya Ngwenya/African News Agency (ANA)

Msawakhe Mayisela, spokesperson for eThekwini Municipality has said about 90 percent of damaged electricity and water infrastructure has been repaired while the municipality is in the process to repair roads and bridges.

Mayisela has called on residents to be tolerant and patient, saying the disaster was the first of its kind and the city was unable to respond as quickly as they would want to.

“Some critical infrastructure like bridges require design and planning which can not be done in a short period. We fully understand the frustration the delays have caused to the people, especially in places like Tongaat where the water supply has not been restored.

“However, we as the municipality are proud of the progress made so far given the extent of the damages we experienced last month,” he said.

As May 11 marked a month since the disastrous floods, the Sunday Tribune spoke to some of the victims who shared how their lives were impacted and suddenly changed as a result of the catastrophic floods.

Phindile Ngcobo 28, who has been living at the Tongaat Town Hall with her brother, Sanele, and baby Lethokuhle since the disaster, says it has been a tough month but they are trying to cope.

“Things are not the same as it was in the beginning. In the beginning, we used to get food three times a day, consistently, but now it’s not like that. Sometimes we have to try and collect money with other people who are also living here so we can at least buy beans to eat for the night.

“Sponsors have been helpful because they come and drop off food here and there,” Ngcobo said.

She said the provincial department of Human Settlement had visited them: “They took our information and promised to provide building materials.”

A Springfield Park family whose three daughters rescued their mother said they were still shocked by the disaster. Refusing to leave their injured mother trapped under rubble when the walls of their house caved in during the flooding, the three young women managed to free her and carry her out moments before the house collapsed.

But during the past month, sisters Nayana, 18, Uvishka,13, and Sasha, 10, and their mother Neshara Maharaj, 44, have faced many challenges, which have left them feeling hopeless, too.

“My mum is still traumatised, she can’t sleep. She wakes up in the middle of the night and feels she is stuck. We are separated because I must study and where they are living is overcrowded. We used to wake up together, even if mum was at work, I was there for my sisters but now I cannot be there,” Nayana said.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE

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