Durban cleans up after record floods hit South Africa
The South African city of Durban city began the mammoth task of recovering from rains that have so far left 59 dead Wednesday, with hillsides washed away, homes collapsed, and dozens still missing.
he South African city of Durban city began the mammoth task of recovering from rains that have so far left 59 dead Wednesday, with hillsides washed away, homes collapsed, and dozens still missing.
he heaviest rains in over 60 years forced sub-Saharan Africa’s most important port to halt operations, as a main access road suffered heavy damage.
Shipping containers were tossed about, washed into mountains of metal.
Sections of other roads were washed away, leaving behind gashes in the earth bigger than large trucks.
he United Methodist Church in the township of Clermont was reduced to a pile of rubble. Four children from a local family died when a wall collapsed on them.
Other homes hung precariously to the hillside, miraculously still intact after much of the ground underneath them washed away in mudslides.
“We see such tragedies hitting other countries like Mozambique, Zimbabwe, but now we are the affected ones,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said as he met with grieving families near the ruins of the church.
South Africa’s neighbours suffer such natural disasters from tropical storms almost every year, but this country is largely shielded from the storms that form over the Indian Ocean.
hese rains were not tropical, but rather caused by a weather system called a cut-off low that had brought rain and cold weather to much of the country.
When storms reached the warmer and more humid climate in Durban’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, even more rain poured down.
– 450mm in 48 hours –
“Some parts on KZN have received more than 450 millimetres (18 inches) in the last 48 hours,” said Tawana Dipuo, a forecaster at the national weather service — nearly half of Durban’s annual rainfall of 1,009 mm.
“It’s still raining today in some parts of the province but it’s going to clear up in the evening,” Dipuo said.
he storm struck as Durban had barely recovered from deadly riots last July which claimed more than 350 lives.
Schools not affected by the floods re-opened Wednesday but few students turned up. A teacher at a primary in Durban’s Inanda suburb said only two of 48 pupils reported for classes.
he provincial government said the disaster “wreaked untold havoc and unleashed massive damage to lives and infrastructure.”
he national police force deployed 300 extra officers to the region, as the air force sent planes to help with the rescue operations.
Days of driving rain flooded several areas, tore houses apart and ravaged infrastructure across the city, while landslides forced train services to be suspended across the province.
he rains flooded highways to such depths that only the tops of traffic lights poked out, resembling submarine periscopes.
orrents tore several bridges apart, submerged cars and collapsed houses. A fuel tanker floated at sea after being swept off the road.
More than 2,000 houses and 4,000 “informal” homes, or shacks, were damaged.
he city had only just recovered from July’s rioting which saw shopping malls looted and warehouses set on fire, in South Africa’s worst unrest since the end of apartheid.
After TV footage showed people stealing from shipping containers, the provincial government condemned “reports of the looting of containers” during the flooding.
Southern parts of the continent’s most industrialised country are bearing the brunt of climate change — suffering recurrent and worsening torrential rains and flooding.
Floods killed around 70 people in April 2019.
“We know it’s climate change getting worse, it’s moved from 2017 with extreme storms to supposedly having record floods in 2019, and now 2022 clearly exceeding that,” University of Johannesburg development studies professor Mary Galvin said.