South Africa

As rescuers look for missing people in South Africa, the flood toll is approaching 400.

The search for scores of people still missing five days after the greatest storm to hit South Africa’s coastal city of Durban in living memory intensified on Friday as the death toll climbed to nearly 400.

The “historic” floods, which killed at least 395 people and displaced almost 41,000 people, left a trail of damage.

“Unfortunately, the number of fatalities continues to rise, with the current total standing at 395,” said Sipho Hlomuka, regional chief of the disaster management ministry.

The official number of individuals missing in KwaZulu-Natal province was 55, with the government leading the search and rescue operation.

According to AFP journalists, a fleet of cars and helicopters with police experts went out early Friday to search a valley in Marianhill area, west of Durban, for 12 persons reported missing in the floods.

The search for survival is becoming increasingly urgent.

After following up on 85 calls on Thursday, Travis Trower, a director for the volunteer-run organization Rescue South Africa, claimed his crews had only recovered corpses.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who called the floods a “catastrophe of unprecedented dimensions… unprecedented in our country,” called for Good Friday prayers for the survivors.

“Let us pray for our people in KwaZulu-Natal so that they receive the healing that they need… so that they can get on with their lives,” he urged El-Shaddai Tabernacle church members in Ermelo, in the eastern province of South Africa.

Thousands of survivors are being kept in shelters across the city, sleeping on cardboard sheets and mattresses thrown on the ground after their homes were destroyed.

Meanwhile, volunteers swarmed throughout the city’s beaches with gloves and garbage bags, picking up debris left by the huge storms ahead of an expected influx of Easter weekend vacationers.

‘Total devastation’
Morne Mustard, 35, a software manager, was one of hundreds of volunteers, including children, who picked up trash and broken reeds from Durban’s famous Umhlanga beach.

“This is my local beach where I bring my kids and spend my weekends, thus this is for our community,” said the author.

He enlisted the support of coworkers, families, and friends to clean up the beach, with beach restaurants providing complimentary breakfast to the volunteers.

“It didn’t feel real, pure devastation, a horrifying sight, stuff flowing out on the shore must have come from someone’s house… brooms and mops, household utensils, it was such a heart sore to watch,” Mustard said of the day the rain fell.

Some of Durban’s poorest citizens have waited in lines to gather water from ruptured pipes and have dug through layers of muck to recover their meager belongings.

To unleash relief funds, Ramaphosa designated the region a catastrophe.

Forecasters stated the region received apocalyptic amounts of rain over several days.

The national weather office claimed some regions received more than 450 millimetres (18 inches) of rain in 48 hours, which is roughly half of Durban’s annual rainfall.

The South African Weather Service has issued a thunderstorm and flooding warning for the Easter weekend in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Damaging winds are anticipated for places along the coast from midday (Friday) into Saturday evening, according to the warning that we have received,” Hlomuka said, adding that disaster teams were on “high alert.”

In the midst of reports of occasional looting, almost 4,000 police officers have been sent to assist with relief efforts and maintain law and order.

The country is still recovering from the two-year-old Covid outbreak and devastating riots that killed over 350 people last year.

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