KZN residents warned not to cross overflowing rivers

A 2023 study showed that flooding events in the province have doubled in the last century. Picture: Supplied

A 2023 study showed that flooding events in the province have doubled in the last century. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 7, 2024



Alfred Duma Local Municipality Mayor Zama Sibisi has warned residents to take precautions and not attempt to cross overflowing rivers during rain and floods.

This follows the death of about 30 people during the festive season when their houses and cars were swept away by floods.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Sibisi and other provincial government officials attended the funeral of seven members of the Msimango family, who were swept away by the heavy Christmas floods in Roosboom.

Speaking to Sunday Independent, Sibisi appealed to the public not to risk their lives during the summer season as more rain and floods are expected.

“We are sympathising with the families for the loss of their loved ones. Unlike illness, here people were looking forward to spending their Christmas at home, but were suddenly confronted by rain resulting in flooding and death.

“People must please take precautions and not risk the lives of the passengers. When a car crosses an overflowing river, the tyres lose balance because of the air filling those tyres. So they must not become victims of death when trying to cross,” said Sibisi.

On Christmas Eve, the municipality experienced heavy rains leading to floods and damage to infrastructure, where some houses and community members were swept away.

According to the municipality, areas around Bell’s Spruit in Shepstone Road and Caravan Park flooded, resulting in 10 prefab houses and one BMW vehicle being swept away.

“Two children and their father were swept into the Bell’s Spruit. According to the local police, the body of one child was recovered, and the search for the father and another child continued until they were discovered,” read a statement.

One vehicle was stuck under the bridge in Shepstone Road with four occupants. One occupant drowned and three were rescued. On the N11 at the Animal Anti-Cruelty League, three vehicles were also swept away, namely a VW Polo, a Ford Bantam and a Ford Ranger. They were recovered by police on December 25, 2023.

At the time, the police stated that a total of six bodies were recovered. Shepstone Road at Bell’s Spruit was completely washed away.

The municipality stated that it was the first time in history that Bell’s Spruit had flooded to this level where the N11 was also affected.

In a separate incident, two farm workers were struck and killed by lightning while 50 other farm workers were injured on Wednesday in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal.

In a statement issued by the KZN Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) on Thursday, the department said provincial disaster management teams responded to the tragic incident in Bergville on Wednesday afternoon.

“According to our preliminary reports, lightning struck around 14:00 on Wednesday while people were still working on the farm. About 50 people were affected by the lightning and received on-site medical attention, while four were transported to the hospital, where they are currently in recovery.”

KZN MEC for Cogta Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi has expressed condolences to the grieving families.

"It is saddening that these disasters continue to claim lives in our province, despite our efforts to mitigate the risk. Our disaster teams are collaborating with the affected families to provide any necessary assistance.

“We have also coordinated with other departments to offer the required support, including psychological counselling for the survivors and their families,“ Sithole-Moloi said.

The department said disaster teams were actively monitoring the situation on the ground, and further details would be provided in due course.

An April 11, 2023, research study, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and further supported by Wits University, showed that flooding events in the province have doubled in the last century.

According to the study, the disastrous flood that hit Durban in April 2022 was the most catastrophic natural disaster yet recorded in KZN in collective terms of lives lost, homes and infrastructure damaged or destroyed and economic impact.

Professor Stefan Grab from Wits and his colleague, Professor David Nash, constructed a geographical history of flooding disasters in KZN by sifting through thousands of archived articles held in old newspapers and colonial, government, early-missionary and meteorological records, which became available from the 1850s onwards.

“They define extreme flooding events, where major rivers overflowed their banks, together with one or more significant consequences, such as the loss of human life, livestock, agricultural fields and crops and infrastructure, such as buildings, roads and bridges.

“The study, which reconstructed the history of floods in KZN since the 1840s, confirmed a widely-held – yet anecdotal view – that the April 2022 floods were likely the most catastrophic natural disaster yet recorded in KZN and that flooding events have doubled over the last century or more.

“Right after the floods, many commentators like the media, some scientists and others were quick to report that the floods were the most severe ever recorded. Our aim was to place the floods into perspective and see if this and other statements related to the disaster were factually correct by building a historic geographic account of past floods and associated extreme rainfall events for the province of KZN and particularly the greater Durban region,” said Grab, who was lead author of the study.