South Africa is preparing for heavier rainfall in areas affected by massive and deadly rainfall earlier this week.
More than 300 people have died in floods in and around the eastern coastal town of Durban in recent days. On Wednesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa described the flood as a “huge catastrophe”, linking it directly to the climate emergency.
“This tells us that climate change is serious, it’s here,” Ramaphosa said as he visited the flooded eThekwini district of the capital, which includes Durban. “We can no longer postpone what we need to do and the measures we need to take to tackle climate change.
The South African Meteorological Service has warned of continued strong winds and rain, leading to the risk of new floods in KwaZulu-Natal and some other provinces over the weekend.
Transport containers taken away and left in a pile by the Durban floods. Photo: AP
Meteorologists said they were surprised by the flood. Some parts of KwaZulu-Natal record almost their average annual rainfall for 48 hours.
“While the impact-based warnings were indeed issued in a timely manner, extremely heavy rainfall appears to have exceeded even the expectations of the South African meteorological community as a whole,” the meteorological service said in a statement.
The Office said that although it is impossible to attribute a single event to the climate crisis, “we can say with confidence that worldwide (as a direct result of global warming and related climate change) all forms of severe and extreme weather conditions … are becoming more frequent and extreme than in the recent past. In other words, heavy rains like the current incident can be expected … to be repeated in the future and with increasing frequency. “
The death toll is expected to increase as search and rescue operations continue in KwaZulu-Natal, officials said.
“KwaZulu-Natal will be declared a provincial disaster area so that we can do things quickly. “Bridges have collapsed, roads have collapsed, people have died and people have been injured,” Ramaphosa said.
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Along with the loss of human life, the damage to infrastructure was great. The port of Durban, the busiest in South Africa, was severely affected.
In one city, a Methodist church was swept away. A Hindu temple was severely damaged in Umhlatuzana, Chatsworth, near Durban, after a river overflowed its banks. Elsewhere, floods caused massive landslides.
Many people were injured. Nokutula Ntantiso’s house survived, but many others in her town of Umlazi did not. “It’s scary because I didn’t sleep even last night, because I was wondering if even that [home] in which I sleep, it can collapse at any time, “said the 31-year-old call center operator.
Authorities have sought to restore electricity in large parts of the province after heavy flooding at various power plants. NGOs worked to distribute clean water. A dozen crocodiles that disappeared from breeding lakes after torrential rains flooded a crocodile farm near Durban were reportedly captured.
Rescue efforts by South African national defense forces have been delayed as the military air wing was affected by the floods, General Rudzani Mapvanya said. The military managed to deploy personnel and helicopters around the province on Wednesday, he said.
Rain continued in parts of Durban on Wednesday afternoon and a flood warning was issued for the neighboring province of Eastern Cape.
Durban is struggling to recover from last July’s deadly riots that killed more than 350 people, the worst riots in South Africa since the end of apartheid.