10 000 soldiers deployed to help restore power, water to flood-hit KZN

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South Africa deployed 10 000 troops on Monday to help restore power and water, and search for 63 people who remain missing after deadly storms battered its east coast.

A week after unprecedented rain began to pound KwaZulu-Natal, the death toll stood at 443, and rescue workers said hopes of finding more survivors were fading.

Clyde Naicker said his brother, Ronald, had been missing for a week, since he disappeared while trying to get to his job as a hospital radiographer.

"Apparently from what we heard, his vehicle got flooded and then he tried to go to safety," Naicker said. The family has been searching every day, but police only joined their effort on Monday.

In addition to his wife, 49-year-old Ronald has two children, aged just two and three.

The KZN government said:

The tragedy currently unfolding in our province is one of the worst natural disasters in the recorded history of our country.

Funerals were being held across the city of Durban, which bore the brunt of the storms.

But with damaged roads and waterlogged cemeteries, burials were difficult.

"There are so many deceased, and the mortuaries can't keep up because they have been so inundated. So, it is taking a little longer to get the deceased out for burial," said Pieter van der Westhuizen, the general manager for funeral services at the Avbob insurance company.

KZN Funeral Directors Association representative Nasan Chetty said the continuous rain had made it "very difficult to do burials".

"If we dig the graves and then come back to do the burial a few hours later it is water-logged," he told AFP.

Water problem 

Swathes of eThekwini, the municipality that includes Durban, remain without electricity or water, and KZN warned it could take time before services were restored.

"There are areas that have suffered extensive damage which will take longer to repair," the province said in a statement.

But eThekwini Deputy Mayor Philani Mavundla said in a television interview 80% of the city's water works were down. Water tankers were being deployed across the region, but the authorities were struggling to fill them.


Some of the troops include plumbers and electricians, joining the mammoth task of trying to get life back to normal.

Many streets remain slathered with mud. In areas where repair crews have yet to reach, the homeless cleared roads to make way for water tankers to pass, an AFP correspondent observed.

Residents complained the water tankers came unannounced, with little discipline as families raced to fill receptacles.

"Well-off families come with 13 buckets and you only have two," said Philakahle Khumalo, a 30-year-old mother of two.

"There is also a lot of pushing there. People are desperate - they don't care about the next person."

The deadliest storm on record dumped apocalyptic levels of rain on Durban and the surrounding area.

Some 40 000 people were left homeless and more than 550 schools and nearly 60 healthcare facilities have been damaged, according to government tallies.


Many children are due to return to class on Tuesday after the Easter break, but authorities warned 271 000 pupils might not be able to attend due to damaged schools.

The government has announced an immediate R1 billion in emergency relief.

Nearly three dozen search teams were deployed across the region on Monday, said co-ordinator Dave Steyn.

"The rescue operations have stopped. It's now more of a search and recovery," he told AFP.

Shock

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.

The intensity of the floods took South Africa, the most advanced African economy, by surprise.

The country is still struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people, mostly in the now flood-struck south-eastern region.

 

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