The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, lamented on Friday, April 15 “a catastrophe of enormous proportions, never before seen in the country”after the terrible floods that killed nearly 400 people and affected another 41,000 on the east coast of the country.
Most of the victims were recorded in the Durban region, a port city in Kwazulu-Natal open to the Indian Ocean and the epicenter of the heavy rains that began last weekend.
The government gave no indication of the total number of people wanted. But on the fifth day of the disaster, rescuers have little hope of finding the living: “Currently our work consists mainly of recovering corpses”one savior, Travis Trower, told Agence France-Presse.
New flood risks this weekend
The president, who traveled further north on Wednesday to Mpumalanga, where he spoke in a church on the occasion of the Easter holidays, confessed to having gone through “one of the saddest moments” of his term by meeting a family that lost ten members to the weather, including young children. Facing the congregation, he said:
“Some of them saw how they took their relatives, without being able to rescue them, reaching out to hold them but the force of the water took them away. »
Forecasts point to more rain during the day and the weekend, with more risks of flooding and landslides.
Bad weather is also expected to affect neighboring Free State (Central) and Eastern Cape provinces, where “One death has already been reported”said Mr. Ramaphosa. Recalling the unprecedented wave of violence that rocked the country in July and the two-year fight against Covid-19, the South African president stressed:
“Our country faces enormous challenges. Just when we thought we could get out of the state of disaster, another disaster, this time natural, hit our country. »
cyril ramaphosawhich declared a state of disaster in the province of Kwazulu-Natal on Wednesday, announced earlier this month the lifting of all legal restrictions related to the Covid-19 epidemic, after the slowdown in the news of infections.
Devastated roads and collapsed bridges
The torrential rains, which reached levels not seen for more than sixty years, severely damaged infrastructure. Roads were devastated, bridges collapsed. More than 250 schools were affected and thousands of houses were destroyed. Authorities fear hundreds of millions of euros in damage.
In the morning, volunteers armed with gloves and garbage bags began cleaning Durban’s beaches, which are often frequented by families and tourists. “It’s my beach, where I take my children, where we spend the weekends”says Morne Mustard, a 35-year-old computer scientist, among the volunteers at the popular Umhlanga beach. The beach restaurants offered them breakfast. He survived the flood, “absolute devastation, a horrible sight”he says, describing all kinds of rubbish and objects, brooms, utensils, washed up on the beach.
A score of emergency shelters were opened and thousands of people were left homeless. Some have been sleeping for several days on chairs or cardboard placed on the floor. In some areas, water and electricity have been cut off since Monday. Desperate people were seen drawing water from broken pipes. Looting has also been reported.
The day before sporadic demonstrations broke out demanding help. The City of Durban has called “be patient”with the slowdown in relief operations “due to the magnitude of road damage”. Local authorities have asked for donations of food, water bottles and blankets.