Mop-up operations across KZN continue following devastating floods
Mop-up operations on the South Coast and across KwaZulu-Natal continue in the wake of the floods that left over 70 dead and hundreds destitute. The cost of damage to various parts of KwaZulu-Natal following last week's heavy rains and localised flooding has run into billions of rand, Premier Willies Mchunu said on Monday, 29 April 2019. "The estimated damage currently stands at R1,1bn with the eThekwini damage alone estimated at over R685m. Railways, roads, houses full of furniture and personal possession were damaged and at places destroyed entirely," Mchunu said at his Durban offices.
Mchunu was updating the media about the provincial cabinet's resolutions relating to the recent floods. According to Mchunu, the death toll for the floods alone had reached 70 in the metro after the body of a young man was recovered in eTshelimnyama near Marianhill.
A total of 1 469 people were displaced and they had to be housed temporarily in community halls or at the homes of their neighbours and relatives, he added. "Over 50 people were injured and had to be treated in hospital. We continue to search for two citizens who are still missing. Our search and rescue [efforts] are still continuing in this regard."
Mchunu added that there had been a total of 235 damaged private homes in eThekwini. This figure continues to rise. "Many families have been rendered homeless. In addition to displacement, many people's lives were interrupted by power outages, the majority of which have been attended to."
Declaration of provincial disaster
Mchunu said the provincial executive had resolved to classify the province a disaster area, "because the province alone cannot cope with these incidents".
"The Provincial Executive has also resolved that relevant stakeholders must ensure infrastructure that will be utilised for elections is restored to normalcy without further delays."
He also urged the public to attend mortuaries in Gale Street, Pinetown and Phoenix, where dedicated staff have been stationed to assist bereaved families. "A task team has been appointed to co-ordinate all the support, including the burials. We want to once again request the next of kin of all the deceased to visit the mortuaries for identification process so that there are no delays from the government's side that will impact on the funeral dates."
He added that eThekwini metro set up a dedicated support desk at the eThekwini Disaster Management Centre for all the bereaved families.
Among the victims of the catastrophic floods which ravaged through Durban, last week, was Sinethemba Myende, who would have celebrated her sixth birthday on Freedom Day. The child, who was described by her distraught mother as bright and loving, was buried alive under the rubble of a collapsed house in Ellen Road, Malvern. Princess Thulile Myende (29) said she is dreading the day when she will have to bury her only child. She explained how the horrific ordeal unfolded.
She said, “We were asleep in our home, when we were awoken by a loud noise. We were so confused and did not know what to do. Our house, which is situated towards the end of the property, began flooding. My family and I decided to go up to the main house for safety. I put my baby to bed and a little while later, the house had collapsed and my baby was gone.” The 29-year-old mother was one of the survivors of the disaster and sustained minor injuries despite being buried under the rubble.
Myende thanked her employers, who opened their hearts to both her and her mother during the tragic circumstances and a host of others, who have generously donated items to her.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has instructed that the SA flag fly at half-mast at every station in the country from 1 to 7 May as a mark of respect and to observe seven days of mourning for those who lost their lives in floods that ravaged the country over the past week.
Ramaphosa visited affected areas and communities in KZN last week, conveying his condolences to those who lost loved ones and assuring those who were displaced that the government would make relief funds available.
Ramaphosa began the morning at an Amanzimtoti house that had collapsed, with only about a quarter of the original structure left standing. Johan Fourie, the owner of the house, said three days earlier he had reported improper drainage to the councillor and community members said there was a sinkhole in the road. “The drainage system here was a terrible problem since November last year,” Johan Fourie, who had been staying in the house for two months, said.
Fourie said he had gone to see the Stormwater and Roads Department after his garage flooded but was dismissed with no solution being offered. “He just told me there’s a lot of email complaining about the system and they’re busy working on it. Well, three-and-a-half days later this is the result.”
The night of the storm, 22 April 2019, Fourie was knee-deep in water, trying to empty some of it out of the house. While doing that at around 1h00, he heard his neighbour’s wall collapsing. Alerted by the sound, Fourie quickly gathered his wife, grandson and two dogs with everyone getting outside just as their own house collapsed down the embankment on which it stood.
According to community members, there had been a sinkhole on the road in front of the house prior to the storm. The sinkhole indicates that the road had been built on weak soil, near the beach, that had not been reinforced. This caused the road to collapse inward with the heavy rainfall, taking Fourie’s house with it.
The ground in the surrounding area remains unstable, with officials saying they are trying to get people out of the neighbouring houses for fear the ground may continue to collapse. “My grandson was behind me and the floor started cracking, about half a metre and I jumped and he jumped. We ran and with that, the whole bar went and with that, the jacuzzi went and with that, the whole lounge went and it was devastating.”
“Everything is down there now,” continued Fourie, gesturing at the pit of dirt where his house once stood. “Everything I worked for is gone.”
Source: Daily Maverick and EWN