South African Police Seek Clues After 21 Teens Die In Bar

Members of the community and family wait for news outside a township pub as a police officer talks on a phone in South Africa’s southern city of East London on June 26, 2022, after 20 teenagers died.

 

 

Police in South Africa were combing a township tavern for evidence on Monday after the mysterious death of 21 teenagers after a night out.

Most of the victims, some as young as 13 years, were found dead inside a popular bar in the southern city of East London. Some died later in hospital.

They bore no visible signs of injury, sparking speculation among local officials and politicians that this was a case of under-age drinking that went tragically wrong.

Special investigators from Pretoria have been rushed to the scene.

“The detectives will be resuming their work at the crime scene today,” regional police spokesman Thembinkosi Kinana told AFP.

Many of the victims are thought to have been students celebrating the end of their high-school exams, officials said.

Autopsies are being conducted to see if the deaths could be linked to poisoning.

“Post-mortems (were) completed by last night and the bodies will be released to their families today,” said Yonela Dekeda, provincial spokeswoman for the health department.

Forensic analysis will be conducted this week.

“Samples were taken and were on a first flight today to Cape Town, where the tests will be conducted,” said Unathi Binqose, a government official on safety.

Drinking in South Africa is permitted for over-18s.

But in township taverns which are often located cheek-by-jowl with family homes, safety regulations and drinking-age laws are not always enforced.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is among those who have voiced concern.

The teenagers reportedly “gathered at a venue which, on the face of it, should be off-limits to persons under the age of 18,” he said.

South Africa Confirms First Case Of Monkey Pox

A file photo of a monkey-pox infected skin

 

South Africa has confirmed it’s first case of Monkey Pox in the country.

The Minister of Health Joe Phahla announced this at a media briefing on Thursday.

The affected person is a 30-year-old male.

He is, however, said to have no travel history.

More to follow…

South Africa Bus Accident Leaves 15 Dead, 37 Others Injured 

Mob Burns Nigerian To Death In South Africa
South African map.

 

Fifteen people were killed and 37 injured Friday when a bus and a truck collided on a South African highway near the capital Pretoria, an emergency services spokesman told AFP.

“The death toll is now 15 dead, and 37 people have been injured, some of them critically,” spokesman Thabo Charles Mabaso said.

The accident happened before dawn, and rescue workers were called at 5:05 am.

“Emergency services arrived on scene to find a bus and truck that collided head-on, with multiple patients lying around and some still trapped inside both vehicles,” emergency services said in a statement.

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Eight women and seven men died at the scene, while 37 others were taken to hospital. Seven were in critical condition, the statement said.

The road was closed throughout the morning. An investigation into the accident’s cause has been launched.

South Africa’s roads are among the most developed on the continent, but safety remains an issue.

Nearly 1,500 people died on the roads during the last Christmas holidays, which is South Africa’s peak summer travel season.

AFP

Ramaphosa Suspends South Africa’s Embattled Graft Watchdog

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, delivers a speech during the memorial service for former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on April 29, 2022. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday suspended the country’s top corruption watchdog as parliament prepares long-delayed impeachment hearings against her.

Busisiwe Mkhwebane was made public protector by former president Jacob Zuma.

Her appointment was widely seen as an attempt to protect Zuma from corruption claims. For years she has filed, and lost, a series of cases against her impeachment.

Parliament, dominated by Ramaphosa’s African National Congress, agreed last month to open impeachment proceedings.

“Advocate Mkhwebane will remain suspended until the… process in the National Assembly has been completed,” the presidency said in a statement.

The announcement came a day after Mkhwebane opened a probe into an alleged coverup by Ramaphosa of a 2020 burglary at his farm.

Rivals say the scandal revealed a money-laundering scheme by the wealthy president, claiming that thieves had found some $4 million in cash hidden in his furniture.

The presidency said Mkhwebane’s deputy would take over all pending cases.

“The absence of Advocate Mkhwebane from office will therefore not impede the progress of any investigations that are pending or underway,” its statement said.

Mkhwebane’s impeachment proceedings are the latest skirmish in a battle to undo the rampant corruption of the Zuma era.

Ex-Spy Chief Accuses South Africa President Of ‘Kidnapping’, Bribing Burglars

South Africa’s President and African National Congress (ANC) party’s President Cyril Ramaphosa (C) speaks during the ANC’s 110th-anniversary celebrations at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, on January 8, 2022. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

 

An ex-spy chief Wednesday said he had filed a legal complaint against South Africa’s president, accusing him of “kidnapping” and bribing robbers who stole millions of dollars from one of his properties.

“I have taken the unprecedented step to lay criminal charges against his excellency, the president of the Republic of South Africa,” Cyril Ramaphosa, former intelligence head Arthur Fraser said in a statement.

According to Fraser, burglars on February 9, 2020, broke into a farm north of Johannesburg belonging to Ramaphosa with the help of a domestic worker, where they found and stole more than $4 million.

Fraser has accused the president of organising the “kidnapping of suspects, their interrogation on his property, and bribery”.

“The president concealed the crime from the South African police service and/or South African revenue service and thereafter paid the culprits for their silence,” he said.

Fraser’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, confirmed to AFP that he had filed the legal complaint at a police station in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

After a career in intelligence, Fraser then became chief of the country’s correctional services.

It was he who in September ordered the release on medical parole of former head of state Jacob Zuma, just two months into a 15-month jail sentence for contempt following his refusal to testify in a probe into financial sleaze under his presidency.

Zuma was forced to resign in 2018 after a series of corruption scandals.

His successor Ramaphosa has pledged to fight graft. But he too has been called in for questioning in the investigation into alleged looting from state coffers during the Zuma era.

AFP

South Africa Angry After Morocco Offer To Host Liberia AFCON Qualifiers

South Africa flag.

 

Another venue row involving Morocco is brewing, this time over qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in the Ivory Coast.

Liberia have no international-standard stadium and Group K rivals Morocco say the west Africans can stage their three home fixtures in the kingdom.

But group rivals South Africa have cried foul, sending a letter on Thursday to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) urging them not to allow Morocco play Liberia twice at home.

“We have been informed that Liberia intends to play their qualifying matches in Morocco, while they are with Morocco in the same group,” the South African Football Association letter said.

“South Africa opposes this arrangement, which goes against the principles of fair play as Morocco will travel less and enjoy home advantage more than anyone else in the group.

“We understand the challenges (finding international standard) stadiums present on the continent, but we advocate that this is not used to disadvantage countries or give others an unfair advantage.”

In 2022 World Cup qualifying, Morocco played their three away matches at home because Guinea-Bissau and Sudan did not have international-class venues and a coup in Guinea prevented the qualifier going ahead.

Morocco won all six matches, then defeated the Democratic Republic of Congo in a home and away play-off to clinch a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations is due to begin on May 30 with two matchdays between then and June 14. Morocco are scheduled to host South Africa and visit Liberia during that period.

This week, Egyptian club Al Ahly asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland to overturn a CAF decision giving the 2022 CAF Champions League final hosting rights to Morocco.

CAF did not specify where in Morocco the match would be played, but the Stade Mohammed V home of Wydad Casablanca would be the obvious choice as its 65,000 capacity is the biggest in the kingdom.

The semi-final second legs are scheduled for this Friday and Saturday and Ahly and Wydad are hot favourites to reach the final.

Ahly want the May 30 title decider staged in a neutral country, while CAF said they chose Morocco because the only other bidders, Senegal, withdrew.

The Cairo club are chasing an unprecedented third straight Champions League title and their South African coach Pitso Mosimane hopes to become the first coach to win three consecutive finals.

Ramaphosa Admits Workers Losing Trust In South African Leadership

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, delivers a speech during the memorial service for former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on April 29, 2022. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP)

 

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday acknowledged mounting public frustration with South Africa’s leadership and institutions, two days after miners booed and drove him from a May Day celebration rally.

Ramaphosa — a mining union leader under white-minority rule — was forced offstage and taken to a police armoured personnel carrier after miners shouted him down.

The protest took place during a televised ceremony organised by country’s largest union, COSATU, at a stadium in the northwestern town of Rustenburg.

“I was… unable to address the gathering because workers there had grievances that they expressed loudly and clearly,” Ramaphosa said in a weekly newsletter.

“While the main grievance appeared to be about wage negotiations at nearby mines, the workers’ actions demonstrated a broader level of discontent,” he said.

“It reflects a weakening of trust in their union and (COSATU) federation as well as political leadership, including public institutions,” Ramaphosa said.

Poverty, inequality and joblessness run high in South Africa, nearly three decades after the end of apartheid rule.

Ramaphosa promised to take “necessary action to improve (workers’) lives and their working conditions.”

– ‘Regrettable’ -COSATU — the Congress of South African Trade Unions — is a long-time close ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

It described the interference in Ramaphosa’s address as “regrettable and unacceptable” but said the protest “to a certain extent, reflects the growing frustration among workers in South Africa.”

South Africa is the continent’s leading economic power but was hit hard by the Covid crisis, and unemployment is at a record 35 percent.

Tension in the labour market has fuelled anti-foreigner sentiment and sporadic demonstrations.

Analysts believe South Africa’s political leadership has suffered a slump in trust among the public at every class level, and that the decline has persisted for more than a decade.

“The situation that Ramaphosa as a state president is facing, is similar to the one that was faced by Jimmy Carter around 1979 in the US where people had lost complete confidence in state institutions and in the leadership cohort,” said Sandile Swana, an independent political analyst.

Ramaphosa helped found the National Union of Mineworkers in 1982. After the end of apartheid, he entered the private sector, becoming a highly successful businessman before returning to politics, serving as vice president to Jacob Zuma.

He ascended to the presidency in 2018 after Zuma was forced out by mounting corruption scandals.

In 2012, Ramaphosa’s image was badly tarnished when police killed 34 striking workers at the Marikana platinum mine, near Rustenburg, and then operated by Lonmin, where he a non-executive director at the time.

Ramaphosa had called for a crackdown on the strikers, whom he accused of “dastardly criminal” behaviour.

Ramaphosa faces a leadership election in the ANC in December.

Swana said he believed Ramaphosa’s presidency was secure.

But “what is not secure is the ANC majority vote in 2024 and in 2029” when general elections take place, Swana said.

“The ANC is probably on an irreversible downward spiral and Ramaphosa is the chaperone, the escort of the ANC into the grave,” Swana argued.

ANC’s electoral support dipped below the 50 percent mark for the first time in municipal elections last November.

South Africa’s Deadly Floods Shine Spotlight On Housing Crisis

eNkanini informal settlment resident, Thulisile Ntobela (31) can be seen by what use to be heir in Durban, on April 22, 2022. Ntobela lost her house after last week’s rains caused a mudslide that destroyed the shack where she was living. (Photo by Guillem SARTORIO / AFP)

 

 

Thulisile Ntobela, once lived in an apartment, but when her rent went up 25 percent, the unemployed mother of five could no longer afford and moved out.

She found a piece of vacant land in Durban and put up a shack.

That was five years ago and much cheaper than paying rent, which had gone up to 200 rand ($12.80).

“That’s why we moved here, we don’t pay the rent. You just build your house and you stay,” she said.

Hers was among the 87 homes — shacks made of corrugated iron — that vanished in seconds when the ground, over-saturated with flood water — crumbled at the informal settlement of eNkanini, on a hilltop residential area of central Durban.

“I was so scared at that time. I was holding my baby. People were screaming,” recalled the 31-year-old, carrying her youngest, an eight-month-old boy.

No one was injured because they had already taken shelter at a neighbour’s home when the floor began to tremble.

 

A man carries a bag of rice and maize distributed activists and community members distribute food to people who’ve lost their homes in last weeks floods at the eNkanini informal settlment in Durban, on April 22, 2022. The informal settlement was badly affected by last week’s rains when 87 shacks where destroyed by mudslides. – First it was Covid, then riots and now floods: KwaZulu-Natal (NZN) province, South Africa’s gateway to the Indian Ocean, is reeling from a unpredented string of disasters. (Photo by Guillem SARTORIO / AFP)

 

Once covered in trees, the settlement of eNkanini formed in 2016 is now dotted with hundreds of shacks, some painted in bright colours.

“We don’t have homes. This is our home,” said Mzwandile Hlatshwayo, 25, a leader in the community.

Nearly 13 percent of South Africa’ 59 million people live in shacks, locally referred to as informal settlements, according to 2019 government statistics.

Hlatshwayo is from a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal but moved to the eastern province’s biggest city Durban in search of work.

He would live in government housing, but none is available in the city.

“I came here looking for a job. There is no jobs in rural areas,” he said.

 

eNkanini informal settlment resident, Thulisile Ntobela’s belongings can be seen outside of her neighbours shack in Durban, on April 22, 2022. Ntobela lost her house after last week’s rains caused a mudslide that destroyed the shack where she was living. (Photo by Guillem SARTORIO / AFP)

 

– Apartheid legacy –
The problem of landlessness goes back to the apartheid era that segregated black Africans and people of colour, preventing them from owning land, said Sbu Zikode, head of the land and housing activism organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers).

Stripped of land ownership, poor blacks moved to sub-par neighbourhoods.

But nearly three decades since the apartheid system was abolished, land distribution and economic inequity remain unresolved.

In 1995, the housing backlog was estimated by a UN report to be 1.5 million units.

 

Shacks damaged by a mudslide can be seen at the eNkanini informal settlment in Durban, on April 22, 2022. The informal settlement was badly affected by last week’s rains when 87 shacks where destroyed by mudslides. – First it was Covid, then riots and now floods: KwaZulu-Natal (NZN) province, South Africa’s gateway to the Indian Ocean, is reeling from a unpredented string of disasters. (Photo by Guillem SARTORIO / AFP)

 

Despite more than three million government houses being constructed since then, the shortfall has ballooned to 3.7 million homes, according to the Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa.

“It’s not by our choice that we have no land, we have no homes,” Zikode said.

People have also flocked to urban centres in search of jobs and better healthcare and education. Infrastructure in municipalities like Durban haven’t kept up with the influx, Zikode said.

Informal settlements have mushroomed on vacant land as a result. But communities on more valuable land face eviction, Zikode said, which often turns into violent encounters.

“It is this reason people will occupy land that is not safe. They will occupy land that is along riverbanks, they will occupy land that is along floodplains.”

 

eNkanini informal settlment resident, Thulisile Ntobela (31) can be seen by what use to be heir in Durban, on April 22, 2022. Ntobela lost her house after last week’s rains caused a mudslide that destroyed the shack where she was living. (Photo by Guillem SARTORIO / AFP)

 

The less desirable locations on floodplains have now also brought deadly consequences.

Rescuers searching for the missing have said poor infrastructure with no consideration of the terrain put the houses at greater risk. Many of those still standing in eNkanini are teetering half a metre from the edge of cliffs, vulnerable to future storms.

Pipes were exposed, wires downed and unpaved footpaths up to houses near the top of the hill are treacherously slick with sand and debris.

Government housing officials said this week they were beginning to clear land in the nearby Ndwedwe town to erect temporary housing for the victims of the flood, which claimed 435 lives.

Longer term solutions are still being investigated.

Out of the tragedy, Zikode believes it’s an opportunity for government to finally address landlessness and poverty.

“The country and the world is watching as to how we are going to be dealing with the current disaster,” he said.

“Surely the government is now forced to act and provide alternative land.”

Floods: South Africa Deploys 10,000 Troops

A general view of severely damaged Quarry Road informal settlement in Durban on April 14, 2022, following the devastating rains and flooding.   Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

The South African army said Monday it had deployed 10,000 troops to help the nation’s east coast recover from storms that have claimed 443 lives and ravaged infrastructure.

Some of the troops include plumbers and electricians to help restore power and water, which have been cut off in some areas for a week.

The troops are also providing field accommodation and water purification systems, the army said.

The deadliest storm on record dumped apocalyptic levels of rain on the city of Durban and the surrounding area of KwaZulu-Natal province.

Some 40,000 people were left homeless and more than 550 schools and nearly 60 health care facilities have been damaged, according to government tallies.

The government has announced an immediate one billion rand ($68 million) in emergency relief.

Funerals are being held across Durban even as grim tales of the catastrophe continue to emerge.

One woman was found dead with her three grandchildren after their car was washed away, while rescuers reported finding bodies washed into dams, local media reported.

Drinking water remains in short supply in many neighbourhoods.

With main roads clear enough to allow heavy trucks, the city dispatched water tankers to the hardest-hit areas.

Running water was restored to some neighbourhoods over the weekend, but other areas could face a long wait.

“Some sites are still inaccessible and teams are waiting for the rain to subside before carrying out disaster assessments and the scope of work to be undertaken,” city spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said late Sunday.

Blue skies finally reappeared Monday, giving hope that the rains have at last subsided.

But the normally azure waters at Durban’s famed beaches have been turned a muddy brown by the mountains of earth and debris washed to the shore.

AFP

South Africa Flood Toll Rises To 443 As Deluge Eases

A general view of a flooded street following heavy rains in Pinetown, near Durban, on April 12, 2022.  PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP

 

The death toll from floods that have battered South Africa’s east coast has risen to 443, including a rescuer, a regional official said on Sunday, as dozens more are still missing.

“The death toll now stands at 443,” Sihle Zikalala, the premier of the KwaZulu-Natal province told a media briefing, adding 63 other people are still unaccounted for.

A member of the rescue and recovery team “experienced difficult breathing and was airlifted to… hospital. Unfortunately he passed away”.

READ ALSO: [Russian Invasion] Pope Calls For Peace In ‘Easter Of War’

Rains were starting to let up in the flood-ravaged east, allowing for search and relief aid operations to continue after one of the deadliest storms in living memory.

Zikalala said the “inclement weather has slowed our assessment and rescue operation on the ground, but we are once again back in the full swing”.

Floodwaters engulfed parts of the southeastern coastal city of Durban and surrounding areas early last week ripping apart roads, destroying hospitals, and sweeping away homes and those trapped inside.

 ‘Rains Clearing’ 

The city of 3.5 million was overcast but the South African Weather Service’s Puseletso Mofokeng said: “rainfall is actually clearing”.

“The rainfall is going to clear (away) completely as we move to Wednesday,” he told AFP.

But recovery operations and humanitarian relief continued in the economic hub and tourist magnet city whose beaches and warm Indian Ocean waters would normally have been teeming with Easter holidaymakers.

The number of flood-related emergency calls had decreased compared to early last week.

“Emergency services are still currently on high alert on Sunday morning,” Robert McKenzie of the provincial KwaZulu-Natal emergency services told AFP.

It rained on Saturday and overnight, “however now, it has stopped,” said McKenzie.

Even so, emergency services were busy attending to a scene in the district of Pinetown where a house collapsed overnight.

“Fortunately now the flood waters have receded and (some) roads cleared. It’s a lot easier to access the community,” he said.

Christians congregated at churches across the city and further afield to offer prayers for those affected by the floods as they celebrated Easter Sunday.

“It’s a tragedy of overwhelming proportions,” said Thabo Makgoba, the Archbishop of Cape Town in his Easter message, a day after his visited Durban.

“The community is suffering severe emotional stress and pain,” said Makgoba, successor to Desmond Tutu.

Government, churches, and charities were marshalling relief aid for the more than 40,000 people left homeless by the raging floodwaters.

The government has announced an immediate one billion rand ($68 million) in emergency relief funding.

 Hospitals and schools Destroyed 

Deputy Social Development Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said some 340 social workers had been deployed to offer support to traumatised survivors with many still missing children and other relatives.

Most casualties were in Durban, a port city and a major economic hub.

Parts of the city have been without water and electricity since Monday after floods ripped away infrastructure.

Scores of hospitals and hundreds of schools have been destroyed.

The intensity of the floods took South Africa, the most economically advanced African country, by surprise.

While the southeastern region has suffered some flooding before, the devastation has never been so severe. South Africans have previously watched similar tragedies hit neighbouring countries such as cyclone-prone Mozambique.

These floods have forced President Cyril Ramaphosa to postpone a working visit to Saudi Arabia that was scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The loss of hundreds of lives “and thousands of homes, as well as the economic impact and the destruction of infrastructure, calls for all hands on deck,” said Ramaphosa.

The country is still struggling to recover from the Covid pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people, mostly in the now flood-struck southeastern region.

AFP

More Rain Lashes South Africa’s Flood-Ravaged Southeastern Region

This aerial view shows sports fields under water days after heavy rains in Durban on April 15, 2022. MARCO LONGARI / AFP
This aerial view shows sports fields under water days after heavy rains in Durban on April 15, 2022. MARCO LONGARI / AFP

 

South Africa’s flood-ravaged east was hit by more rain Saturday after the deadliest storm to strike the country in living memory killed nearly 400 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

Floodwaters engulfed parts of the southeastern coastal city of Durban this week ripping apart roads, destroying hospitals and sweeping away homes and those trapped inside.

Emergency services in the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, where Durban is located off the Indian Ocean coast, were on high alert.

READ ALSO: South Africa Flood Toll Nears 400 As Rescuers Search For Missing

Recovery operations and humanitarian relief were underway in the city of 3.5 million which would normally have been teeming with Easter holidaymakers this weekend.

“Sadly there are still bodies being recovered from homesteads, especially from the rural areas,” Shawn Herbst of the first responder company Netcare 911 told AFP.

“There is still damage taking place, especially with the rain we are experiencing today.”

The death toll rose on Saturday by three, to 398 while 27 people were reported still missing, said government in a statement.

This weekend’s rainfall will not be “as hectic as it was in the past few days”, Puseletso Mofokeng, senior forecaster at the South Africa Weather Service, said. But with the “soil being over-saturated with water, we can still get a lot of flooding”.

Around a tenth of the more than 300 mm rain that fell on Monday, was expected Saturday.

Troops, police and volunteer rescue workers are operating from a small civilian airport.

Residents of Marianhill, desperate for news of their missing relatives were relieved at the sight of rescuers, but the dread of fresh rains lingered.

“We have the rescue team finally… reach here, but seeing the rain that is coming back, they are going to be disrupted,” said a concerned Dumisani Kanyile after recovery teams failed to find any of the 10 members of one family went missing in the Durban district.

Mesuli Shandu, 20, a close relative of the family was still in a state of disbelief.

“This is the first thing that has ever happened to our family, that a massive number of people died in one day, including babies.”

“When I came, I thought it was a dream, maybe someone would pinch me and say it was a dream, just wake up.” But “I see all the rescuers and the dogs searching for their bodies”.

‘Another disaster’

Six days after the floods first struck, hope of finding survivors is fading and Durban Emergency Medical Services spokesman Robert McKenzie said the response was now focused on recovery and humanitarian relief.

“There has been a shift in response to the emergency as we have moved from the emergency phase to the recovery phase of the disaster, more to humanitarian relief effort and restoration of services,” he told AFP.

Survivors are still desperately looking for missing relatives.

“We are getting calls constantly on a daily basis. Yesterday there were 35 calls attended to, and there were six bodies recovered,” said  Travis Trower, director for the volunteer-run organisation Rescue South Africa.

The floods have damaged more than 13,500 houses and completely destroyed around 4,000. at least 58 hospitals and clinics have been “severely affected”, said government.

Clean water is scarce and authorities have promised to deploy water tankers. Residents were using shopping trolleys to carry buckets of water.

The government has announced one billion rand ($68 million) in emergency relief funding.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) chief billionaire Patrice Motsepe donated what he called a “humble contribution” of 30 million rand ($2.0-million, 1.9 million euros).

“Our people are suffering,” said Motsepe announcing the donation before the Zulu King, Misuzulu Zulu, at a hall sheltering displaced people.

South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised country, is still struggling to recover from the two-year-old Covid pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people, mostly in the now flood-struck southeastern region.

“Just as we thought it was safe to get out of (the Covid) disaster, we have another disaster, a natural disaster descending on our country,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a Good Friday speech.

The floods are “a catastrophe of enormous proportions… not seen before in our country”.

 

AFP

South Africa Flood Toll Nears 400 As Rescuers Search For Missing

A man is seen searching through debris at the Blue Lagoon beach following heavy rains and winds in Durban, on April 12, 2022. – At least 45 people have died in floods and mudslides after rainstorms struck the South African port city of Durban and surrounding KwaZulu-Natal province, the authorities said on April 12, 2022. (Photo by RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP)

 

 

Police, army and volunteer rescuers on Friday widened the search for dozens still missing five days after the deadliest storm to strike South Africa’s coastal city of Durban in living memory as the death toll rose to nearly 400.

The “unprecedented” floods, which affected nearly 41,000, left a trail of destruction and at least 395 people dead.

“Sadly the number of fatalities continues to increase with the latest figure standing at 395,” regional head of the disaster managing ministry Sipho Hlomuka said in a statement.

With the government coordinating the search-and-rescue operation, the official number of people missing in KwaZulu-Natal province stood at 55.

A fleet of cars and helicopters carrying police experts set out early Friday to comb through a valley in Marianhill suburb, west of Durban, to look for 12 people reported missing in the floods, AFP correspondents said.

It is an increasingly desperate search for survivors.

Travis Trower, a director for the volunteer-run organisation Rescue South Africa, said his teams had found only corpses after following up 85 calls on Thursday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa — describing the floods as “a catastrophe of enormous proportions… not seen before in our country” — urged Good Friday prayers for  survivors.

“Let us pray for our people in KwaZulu-Natal so that they receive the healing that is required… so that they can get on with their lives,” he told El-Shaddai Tabernacle church congregants in the eastern town of Ermelo.

Thousands of survivors, left homeless after their houses were destroyed, are being housed in shelters scattered across the city, sleeping on cardboard sheets and mattresses laid on floors.

Meanwhile volunteers, with  gloves and trash bags, fanned across the city’s beaches to pick up debris left by the massive storms ahead of an expected surge of Easter weekend holidaymakers.

– ‘Absolute devastation’ –
Software manager Morne Mustard, 35, was among the scores of volunteers, who included children, picking up debris and broken reeds from Durban’s famous Umhlanga beach.

“This is my local beach where I bring my kids, and this is where we spend our weekend, so this is for our community,”.

He roped in workmates, families and friends to help clean up as beach restaurants offered free breakfast for the volunteers.

Recalling the day the rain fell, Mustard said, “It didn’t feel real, absolute devastation, a horrendous sight, stuff spilling out on the beach must have come from someone’s house… brooms and mops, household utensils, it was such a heart sore to see.”

Some of Durban’s poorest residents have lined up to collect water from burst pipes and dug through layers of mud to retrieve their scant possessions.

Ramaphosa declared the region a state of disaster to unlock relief funds.

Weather forecasters said apocalyptic levels of rain were dumped on the region over several days.

Some areas received more than 450 millimetres (18 inches) over 48 hours, or nearly half of Durban’s annual rainfall, the national weather service said.

The South African Weather Service issued an Easter weekend warning of thunderstorms and flooding in KwaZulu-Natal.

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

Over 4,000 police officers have been deployed to help with relief efforts and maintain law and order amid reports of sporadic looting.

The country is still struggling to recover from the two-year-old Covid pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people.