Death toll in South Africa floods rises to 443, with thousands left homeless

Officials are working to get clean water to hard-hit areas near Durban.

April 18, 2022, 9:45 AM

PRETORIA, South Africa -- The South African National Defense Force has been called up to assist in the clean-up operations on the country’s flood-ravaged east coast.

At least 443 people have died and 63 others are missing after the deadliest storm on record rained down on the city of Durban and the surrounding area of KwaZulu-Natal province.

Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless and more than 550 schools and nearly 60 health care facilities have been damaged, according to the South African government. Authorities have announced an immediate 1 billion rand ($68 million) in emergency relief.

PHOTO: A member of the search and rescue team looks through debris in Dassenhoek near Durban, South Africa, April 17, 2022.
A member of the search and rescue team looks through debris in Dassenhoek near Durban, South Africa, April 17, 2022.
Rogan Ward/Reuters

Drinking water remains in short supply in many neighborhoods. With main roads clear enough to allow heavy trucks, the city dispatched water tankers to the hardest-hit areas. Running water was restored to some neighborhoods over the weekend, but other areas could face a long wait.

Blue skies finally reappeared Monday, giving hope that the rains have at last subsided. But the normally azure waters at Durban's famed beaches have been turned a muddy brown by the mountains of earth and debris washed to the shore.

PHOTO: A search and rescue team uses a dog to search for bodies in Dassenhoek near Durban, South Africa, April 17, 2022.
A search and rescue team uses a dog to search for bodies in Dassenhoek near Durban, South Africa, April 17, 2022.
Rogan Ward/Reuters

The army will render support as part of Operation Chariot by erecting field accommodation, providing fresh water with its water purification systems, deploying electricians for restoring power and sending plumbers for restoring the water supplies in the areas that have been affected by the floods.

While the full extent of the damage has not yet been determined, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala said "billions will be required to rebuild the province from this catastrophe."

"At this point, we are still surveying all the damage and quantifying," Zikalala said. "We want to be scientific and not alarmists about it, and to ensure that we have covered all sectors affected."

PHOTO: A man walks around a damaged bridge caused by flooding in Umlazi near Durban, South Africa, April 16, 2022.
A man walks around a damaged bridge caused by flooding in Umlazi near Durban, South Africa, April 16, 2022.
Rogan Ward/Reuters

Zikalala was, however, able to reveal the preliminary estimated cost of road infrastructure damage as almost $400 million (R5.6 billion) -- and that it included 1,369 infrastructure projects across the coastal province.

He said many roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure were damaged or completely washed away.

During a media briefing on Sunday afternoon, Zikalala took the opportunity to allay fears around the possible looting of funds.

PHOTO: Mthandi Sibiya collects water near what remains of his home which collapsed while he was sleeping due flooding in Mzinyathi near Durban, South Africa, April 17, 2022.
Mthandi Sibiya collects water near what remains of his home which collapsed while he was sleeping due flooding in Mzinyathi near Durban, South Africa, April 17, 2022.
Rogan Ward/Reuters

"We want to say, without any equivocation, that all the resources allocated for flood relief and the recovery and rebuilding process will be utilized in line with fiscal rectitude, accountability, transparency and openness," Zikalala said. "We want to emphasise the fact that, having learnt the lessons of COVID-19, no amount of corruption, maladministration and fraud will be tolerated or associated with this province.”

ABC's Ines de La Cuetara reports:

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