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Catastrophic flooding in Durban kills over 340, thousands affected

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By Newsvot News - - 5 Mins Read

Flooding in the Durban area of South Africa has killed at least 341 people, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, and is a "catastrophe of immense dimensions."

As he visited flooded regions of Durban and the adjacent eThekwini metropolitan area, Mr Ramaphosa said, "This calamity is part of climate change; it is informing us that climate change is serious; it is here."

"You're not alone. We'll do everything we can to see what we can do to help, even though your hearts are breaking," he continued.

"We can no longer put off what we must do and the actions we must take to address climate change."

Officials say the death toll is anticipated to rise as search and rescue activities continue in KwaZulu-Natal province.

Mr Ramaphosa announced that the province as a whole would be declared a disaster zone.

He continued, "Bridges have collapsed, roads have crumbled, people have died, others have been injured."

In an online press conference, Sihle Zikalala, the premier of the affected KwaZulu-Natal province, said: "A total of 40,723 individuals have been affected, with sadly 341 fatalities documented."

"We can confirm that the amount of the damage, which is still being evaluated, will undoubtedly go into billions of rands," he added, describing the floods as a "unprecedented calamity in the history of our province, if not our country."

After persistent rains over the weekend and a torrential rainstorm on Monday flooded homes, swept away roads and bridges, and hampered shipping in one of Africa's busiest ports, cargo containers were washed away and robbed in some parts, the province was declared a disaster area on Wednesday.

After municipal services, including electricity, were disrupted on Thursday, people in some places hurried to retrieve clean water from broken pipelines and water tanks.

"We don't have water, we don't have electricity; it's been difficult," Thabisile Mathumbu said, adding that residents were not given advance warning of impending severe rains. "We should have been forewarned," says the narrator.

According to Zikalala, the premier, the administration was still tallying the number of missing and displaced persons.

The tragedy has damaged 248 schools, and there are major service delivery problems in water and electricity, he said, adding that attempts are being made to restore normalcy.

The southeastern coast of Africa is at the mercy of sea-borne weather systems that experts say are becoming worsened as a result of global warming. They believe the situation will deteriorate dramatically in the coming decades.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who visited the province on Wednesday, called the accident "a terrible catastrophe," adding that it was "clearly part of climate change."

"We can no longer put off what we need to do, the actions we need to take to deal with climate change, and our disaster management capability needs to be at a higher level," Ramaphosa told a crowd in Durban's Ntuzuma township.

The floodwaters hit as the province recovers from days of arson and looting that killed over 300 people last year. While rioting erupted in several parts of the country, KwaZulu-Natal was the hardest hit, with several companies shut down.

Authorities were also attempting to restore power to wide areas of the province following flooding at several power plants.

The South African National Defence Force's rescue efforts were hampered since the military's air wing was also harmed by the floods, according to General Rudzani Maphwanya.

The country's weather agency said that certain locations saw daily rainfall totals of more than 160 millimetres.

Over the Easter weekend, forecasters warned of further wind and rain, as well as the potential of flooding in Kwazulu-Natal and other provinces.

It is possible that the Eastern Cape, Free State, and North West provinces of South Africa will be affected.

The south-eastern coast of Africa is at the mercy of seaborne weather systems, which experts say are becoming more intense as a result of global warming.

Mozambique, South Africa's northern neighbor, has had a succession of disastrous floods in the last decade, the most recent of which killed more than 50 people.

MTN, the mobile network operator, announced on Wednesday that it had been able to restore service to over 278 sites in Umlazi and Amanzimtoti, including towers. However, sporadic rain has made recovery difficult, resulting in the closure of further locations, according to the report.

Transnet, a logistics and freight company, stated in a late-evening statement that it had resumed shipping from the port of Durban as of Thursday afternoon and that six export containers were being transferred to Durban by rail.