Heavy rains’ deadly toll
More than 30 die in floods and mudslides in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal
At least 33 people have died in flooding and mudslides triggered by torrential rains that have battered KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape since Monday – and the death toll is expected to rise.
Among those killed were three children, including a seven-month-old baby.
A further 10 children are still missing.
Military teams have been sent to the affected areas to help with rescue and evacuation efforts.
In addition to collapsed buildings and flooded roads, sewer lines were blocked and electricity pylons toppled over.
Schools and businesses were forced to close and train services came to a halt.
In Lubhacweni village in KwaBhaca (Mount Frere,) where bridges and roads washed away, a 12-year-old girl drowned, according to the Alfred Nzo municipality.
And 23 deaths were recorded in Durban, while nine others died outside the city, with the figure set to rise, KwaZuluNatal co-operative governance and traditional affairs spokesperson Senzo Mzila said.
In Chatsworth‚ south of Durban‚ rescue workers recovered nine bodies on Tuesday after a mudslide destroyed the home of a caretaker at Westcliff Secondary School.
At Port St Johns, 300 people were evacuated overnight on Monday and early on Tuesday.
The worst affected area was Green Farms, an informal settlement less than 5km outside the town towards Second Beach.
Residents have described the flooding as the worst ever.
Eastern Cape transport authorities warned of mudslides in the Kei Cuttings, while in other areas bridges were submerged and dangerous.
“Port St Johns and the greater Alfred Nzo and OR Tambo districts remain the hardest hit areas,” provincial transport MEC Weziwe Tikana said on Tuesday.
“A mudslide has been reported on the busy R61 at Qhaka village towards Mthatha.”
In KwaZulu-Natal, Netcare 911’s Shawn Herbst said they had responded to reports of a structural collapse in KwaNdengezi near Mariannridge‚ west of Durban, on Tuesday and found that an entire house had been destroyed by a mudslide.
During a search for survivors, the bodies of a sevenmonth-old and a nine-year-old child were found.
“While paramedics were on the scene, they received multiple calls for assistance from residents in the area, pleading for help as the ground beneath their houses had been washed away and the houses were about to collapse,” he said.
Eight houses had been completely destroyed by mudslides, killing six people.
SA Weather Service spokesperson Hannelee Doubell said the weather system was expected to exit the country from the east coast of the Eastern Cape on Thursday.
In the past 24 hours, Paddock on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast had received 235mm of rain, while Mt Edgecombe and Virginia, north of Durban, received 162mm and 163mm respectively.
Athlone Park, south of Durban, recorded 165mm.
“It’s a lot of rain to fall in 24 hours,” Doubell said.
Meanwhile, ANC provincial chair Oscar Mabuyane and cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Fikile Xasa described Green Farm as a disaster waiting to happen, saying the whole town needed to be re-engineered.
Street hawker Thembisa Ngcwabane said: “Our homes were flooded back in 2013 but this time it’s worse.
“Our children’s stationery and textbooks were swept away.
“Fridges and furniture have been swimming in water since the rain started.”
One of the houses was swept away on Monday.
Port St Johns municipal bosses convened an urgent meeting on Tuesday.
The town’s mayor, Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo, said they had written to the national department of human settlements to help provide temporary shelter for those affected.
She said the damage was extensive and the municipality had set up a disaster fund to raise money for the victims.
Port St Johns municipal manager Tshaka Hlazo said evacuation efforts were continuing as more distress calls came in.
Ngcwabane and other Green Farm residents said they were scared to leave their houses in case their belongings were stolen.
Spaza shop owner John Ricalo said all his stock had been swept away by the flood waters.
“I think I lost around R30,000,” he said.
More than 100mm of rain was recorded in Coffee Bay and Port St Johns, according to the SA Weather Service’s Garth Sampson.
East London recorded 27.8mm, King William’s Town 28.8mm and Mthatha 48.6mm between 8am on Monday and 8am on Tuesday.
“The eastern half of the province east of Port Alfred can expect rains until late tomorrow [Wednesday], with heavy falls expected in places,” Sampson said.
In Potsdam outside Mdantsane, six families, including disabled people, had to evacuate their flooded homes on Tuesday morning.
The provincial education department has instructed principals and school governing bodies to prevent pupils in flood-hit areas from crossing overflowing rivers and streams.
In March, six pupils were swept to their deaths while trying to cross the overflowing Mgxojeni river.
Superintended-general Themba Kojana said pupils should stay at home until the situation improved.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Cefani River on the East Coast Wild Coast Jikeleza Route was close to breaching, with the water rising quickly around the front row of chalets and playground equipment at the Cefani Mouth Holiday Resort.
Local developer Doug Kunhardt said the drought had caused a large sandbar to build up at the Cefani mouth.
“The height of the sandbar has grown to a size I last saw in 1998,” he said.
“With standard rainfall, the sandbar should break four times a year, but because of the drought it has grown – but the heavy rains are causing the river to breach now.”
Amathole district municipality spokesperson Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso said some dam levels had improved significantly from the heavy downpours.
“In the Great Kei area, Morgan’s Bay, Chintsa and Haga Haga, dams have moved from 70% to 100%, while Cwili Dam in Kei Mouth is still at 20%.
“We are hoping for more rain in areas such as Raymond Mhlaba, where the Andrew Turpin and Adelaide dams are still at 5% and 0.5%, respectively.”