KZN floods: Death toll keeps rising, Ramaphosa says it's 'a catastrophe of enormous proportions'

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The aftermath of the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal. (GCIS)
The aftermath of the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal. (GCIS)
  • The official death toll is expected to grow as missing individuals are being located. 
  • The number of missing people has grown exponentially, according to provincial authorities.
  • The confirmed death toll is now more than six times the number confirmed a day before. 

The official death toll in rain-stricken KwaZulu-Natal keeps rising as the bodies of those missing after Monday's torrential rain are located and confirmed dead.

The spike in the number of deaths can also be attributed to the fact that emergency services are finally able to access areas they could not on Tuesday. 

The province's Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that at least 259 people had died.

Provincial authorities, who spoke to News24, said the plan was to appraise President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet, so that he could communicate the official death toll while visiting affected communities on Wednesday. 

"This, however, did not materialise owing to the constant increase in the death toll. Every minute the number goes up, and it is better to get a consolidated number later in the evening that will be communicated to the public," said an official. 

Addressing the media on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said he had visited a family who had 10 members "swept away by rushing water". 

He said four members had been located and confirmed dead, but six were still missing.

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The expectation that the death toll could continue to rise was alluded to by KZN's police commissioner, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, who bemoaned the severe shortage of mortuary vans in rain-battered parts. 

Mkhwanazi said: "As is, there is a limited number of mortuary vans that are available, and police are left having to transport these bodies from the pick-up scenes to mortuaries because there is not enough mortuary vans, that is why we are even assisting with our own resources."

He was addressing the media from the Pinetown Civic Centre on Wednesday morning.

Mkhwanazi, the national police commissioner, Fannie Masemola, Police Minister Bheki Cele and KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala met with Ramaphosa and other ministers to brief them on the situation. 

Mkhwanazi said:

Certainly, there is quite a number of additional resources that have already come down. We have got air support that is already here and a lot of other members that are coming down to support with the rescue operations as well as just to support our members.

Ramaphosa said other provinces had committed to sending aid to KZN, be it in expertise, resources or personnel. 

He went on to describe the situation as "a catastrophe of enormous proportions", adding that "we need to act with haste to assist affected citizens".


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