South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has visited communities affected by flooding and mudslides that killed at least 51 people. Heavy rains have lashed South Africa in recent days, with the southern and eastern parts of the country badly hit since last weekend.
“Our hearts go out particularly to families and communities who have been directly affected by death, injury and the loss of property,” Ramaphosa said in a statement after returning from crisis talks in Egypt on the situations in Libya and Sudan.“This situation calls on all of us to pull together as a country to reach out to affected communities.”
Counting the cost
The death toll jumped from 33 on Tuesday, as rescuers continued to comb debris for those who might be trapped underneath landslides. In addition to collapsed buildings and flooded roads, sewer lines were blocked and electricity pylons had toppled over.
The KwaZulu-Natal region has been hit by heavy rains for days, but authorities did not anticipate the extent of the downpour late on Monday, said Lennox Mabaso, a spokesman for the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department.
“As a result there was flooding and some structures were undermined and collapsed on people,” Mabaso said, adding some people were swept away by the water. Multiple dwellings and houses collapsed in the mudslides, said KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman Robert McKenzie. Some major roads in and around the port city of Durban were closed on Wednesday, local media reported.
South African military personnel have been dispatched to help rescue and evacuation efforts. The South African Weather Services warned that more heavy rain and gale force winds were expected, which could threaten low-lying bridges and roads. “Unfortunately the numbers have risen to 51.
In previous years we have tried to remove people from low-lying areas,” a regional minister, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, told SA FM radio. “We will continue with negotiations in some of the areas where we believe the long-term solution is people moving out.”
Last week, 13 people were killed during an Easter service in KwaZulu-Natal when a church wall collapsed after days of heavy rains and strong winds.