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As mop-up operations underway, KZN residents should brace for a rainy Easter weekend

Hevy rainfall and flooding battered parts of KZN. Pictures: Theo Jeptha/ African News Agency(ANA)

Hevy rainfall and flooding battered parts of KZN. Pictures: Theo Jeptha/ African News Agency(ANA)

Published Apr 14, 2022

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Durban: With mopping up operations underway, citizens have been warned to brace themselves for more wet weather over the weekend.

Kumsa Masizana, a forecaster at SA Weather Service, said the rains that battered KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country earlier this week, were associated with a low-pressure system.

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She said while the rains would subside on Wednesday and Thursday, further showers were expected from Friday and into the weekend.

"The only day that KZN will get a rest will be on Thursday. There will be some clearing on Wednesday but there is still going to be a chance for showers along the south coast and adjacent interior.

"On Friday we have another system coming through that will bring a lot of rainfall, particularly over the South and South Eastern part of the country. So, we are monitoring for possible heavy rain and flooding especially since the grounds are already so heavily saturated," she said.

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The downpours on Monday evening resulted in widespread damage to property. Several deaths and injuries were also reported.

In Bonella, Cato Manor, a mother and her two daughters were killed when a sandbank collapsed on their home during the downpour on Monday night. Search and rescue teams spent hours searching for the bodies.

Logan Pillay, a neighbour, said "The husband and children's father was asleep in the lounge, which is in the front of the home, while the rest of the family were in their rooms towards the back of the house. He is traumatised. We don't know what to say to console him.

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"The search and rescue teams found the mother first, then the 25-year-old daughter and then the 32-year-old daughter.

“I heard a lady crying and I did not know how to get to her. I felt helpless as there was nothing I could do. It was pouring and there was mud everywhere. After some time, the crying stopped and we couldn't hear anything."

Pillay said he called the fire department and when emergency workers arrived, they worked non-stop to try and find the women.

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In Tongaat, a grandmother and her three grandchildren are believed to have drowned when their car was swept off a bridge on Canary Crescent in Flamingo Heights.

Prem Balram, the spokesperson for Reaction Unit South Africa, a private security company, said: “On Monday night residents witnessed an orange Toyota Auris being swept away when the river burst its banks. A female with three minor children was allegedly in the vehicle.”

Paul Herbst, the spokesperson for Medi Response KZN, said the body of the woman was found in the vehicle on Monday night.

“The children were not found in the vehicle. On Tuesday, our team, together with the Umhlali K9 Search and Rescue Unit searched the area. The dogs had pointed out the location of two of the younger victims.”

The third child was found later in the day.

Dolly Munien, a Tongaat councillor, said: “This is great devastation for the family and our entire community. We pray that God gives them strength during this difficult time."

Damages

Mxolisi Kaunda, mayor of eThekwini Municipality, briefed the media after meeting with Disaster Management and Emergency officials on Tuesday.

Kaunda said the city was still tallying the cost of the damages and many areas were without electricity and water.

"Most of our electricity sub-stations and water treatment plants have been flooded. Even the mayor doesn't have water at home. Our teams are working 24/7 to ensure that services are restored."

When questioned by a journalist about whether or not the city was properly maintaining the storm water system, Kaunda responded: "We have been visiting various areas with multidisciplinary teams to unlock these challenges. But what becomes our priority now, is to save lives where possible.”

He added: "One of the fundamental factors that has influenced the flooding is the landslides. It has nothing to do with drainage because these houses are built on soft soil, on slopes."

Martin Meyer of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) said: “There can be little doubt that the situation this week has been worsened by poor service delivery in many municipalities.

“This includes the failure to keep storm water drains cleared, maintain roads and even ensure proper street lighting to help drivers in these difficult conditions.

“The tragedy is that these areas had been prioritised, much of the damage we are seeing may have been minimised. Instead, years of neglect and incompetence are threatening the property and lives of our citizens.”

The party was among a growing number of stakeholders who called for a State of Disaster to be declared in KZN. There were also calls for Eskom to suspend loadshedding.

Business affected

Meanwhile, for the business sector, the floods were the latest setback after the unrest last year and the Covid-19 lockdown the year before.

Palesa Phili, CEO of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry said : "The situation specifically in the SMME sector is in distress, our informal businesses in particular. They already did not have insurance post the looting and COVID 19 pandemic, and now the floods.

"We are truly concerned with the state of recovery which seems a long way away. Long term sustainability will prove to be a challenge but we need to see collaborative effort from the private and public sector in order to reach sustainable solutions geared towards repairing our economy."

She said in addition to flood damage, some businesses were being looted.

"As a business collective we call on law enforcement to be visible, as we have received reports that criminals are using this disaster as an opportunity to commit crime, several container trucks that are stuck on the road have been victims of looting, we cannot allow this type of behaviour."

Phili added that government needed to focus on improving infrastructure.

"The damage to property and loss of productivity, mainly due to ageing and inadequately maintained infrastructure, is disastrous and unsustainable and will have a cascading negative effect on economic activity.

“There needs to be a serious review of stormwater drainage systems especially related to our local and provincial road networks to ensure that rainwater can be easily drained away. The Durban Chamber urges the local and provincial government to urgently share its disaster management plan with all stakeholders, and enact steps to reduce the dangers and potential damage of the heavy rainfall to minimise the socio-economic risks.

Solly Suleman, President of the Minara Chamber of Commerce, said they were still assessing damages.

He said that some businesses had been forced to close because neither staff nor customers could access them.

Sumashini Moodley, who owns a mini supermarket in Westham, Phoenix, said she was losing hope.

"In 2020, my business closed for two months during the hard lockdown. I did not have an income and had to dip into my savings. As the lockdown levels eased in 2021, I thought I was going to recover.

“But then the unrest occurred in July and my entire store was ransacked and petrol bombed. Everything I worked hard for was destroyed in seconds.

“I picked up the pieces and re-established myself. Now due to the heavy rains business has been slow. I am seeing less than 10% of my customers."

She said her store was also partially flooded and some of her stock had been damaged.

"It seems like every time we try to build, we are hit with another disaster. I am losing hope."

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