Ten dead, 1 000 homeless

2008-06-19 00:00

The process of having flood-hit areas declared disaster areas has begun.

Local Government MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, the head of the provincial disaster management team, said he would report to the provincial cabinet by the middle of next week.

The floods have killed at least 10 people, left about 1 000 homeless and caused billions of rands of damage.

Umzinto near Scottburgh was the worst hit when all the south coast rivers flooded on Tuesday night.

Mabuyakhulu said the floods were considered to be the worst in 50 years and reminded people of the effects of Cyclone Demoina in 1984.

Raj Paparum, who lives in a municipal flat in Umzinto, said yesterday that his neighbour lost almost all her possessions as her house collapsed when a stream turned into a pounding river on Tuesday night.

The river flooded its banks and began washing away the building’s foundations.

The Paparums fled from their house at about 5 am on Wednesday when they saw the walls begin to move.

An hour later their neighbour’s house was in ruins.

Later on Wednesday, a 70-year-old Indian tourist died in a flat opposite the river when a mudslide and an uprooted tree hit the building.

The man’s host had just made tea and went outside to look at the ruined house when an embankment behind the block of flats collapsed.

Members of the police’s search and rescue team were still digging in the 1,2 metre-deep mud in the flat for the missing man yesterday.

Inspector Jack Haskins of the Pietermaritzburg K9 Search and Rescue Unit said they started digging in the mud inside the flat at 9 am yesterday, but had to stop when darkness fell.

“It is too dangerous for us to continue digging because it is too dark now. We are going to resume the search tomorrow (today) morning,” said Haskins.

The search was undertaken by policemen from Durban and Pietermaritzburg from K9 Search and Rescue.

Meanwhile, an 18-year-old school boy was charged with culpable homicide and driving without a licence after he tried to drive a bakkie carrying schoolchildren along a flooded road at Umkomaas on Wednesday.

The bakkie was swept away by the water and the 20-year-old owner of the bakkie and three schoolchildren drowned.

Police have confirmed 10 deaths since the flooding began, but said this number may rise.

By 4 pm yesterday, Superintendent Zandra Hechter-Wiid said four people had died in the area that she covers on the south coast, while her colleague, Captain Vincent Pandarum, said another six were confirmed dead in the remaining south coast areas.

Two of the dead were senior citizens who were crushed in their home by a falling wall.

Hechter-Wiid reported that no other person was missing in her area, while Pandarum said the man in the flat is still missing in his area.

Two children — Thembiso Khumalo (9) and Steven Ndebele (12) — who were missing, have been found unharmed.

Mabuyakhulu said that residents of two affected informal settlements will be housed in prefabricated houses while low-cost housing is built for them.

The MEC also said water and power supplies to schools and clinics would be a top priority, schoolchildren who are writing exams would be assisted and engineers will inspect the damage to about 10 bridges.

Two rural areas near Umzinto were still cut off from the outside world.

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