Dozens still missing as death toll from South Africa floods rises to 443

Ethekwini, South Africa (Reuters) – Rescuers searched for dozens of people still missing in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province on Sunday after torrential rains in recent days triggered floods and mudslides that killed more than 440 people.

Floods have displaced thousands, cut off electricity and water services, and disrupted operations in one of Africa’s busiest ports, Durban. A regional economic official estimated the total damage to infrastructure at more than 10 billion rand ($684.6 million).

The provincial chief minister, Sohail Zikalala, said the death toll had risen to 443, with 63 people missing.

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And in some of the hardest-hit areas, residents said they were frightened by the idea of ​​more rain, which was expected on Sunday. Some have faced a agonizing wait for the news of the loss of loved ones.

“We have not lost hope. Although we are constantly worried as the days go on,” said Spongeil Mjoka, a resident of Sunshine Village in I Thekwini Municipality who lost his 8-year-old nephew days ago.

“We are traumatized by the sight of the rain,” Majoka, 47, told Reuters, adding that her house was badly damaged.

In a nearby semi-rural area, three members of the Sepia family were killed when the walls of the room they were sleeping in collapsed and 4-year-old Bonjica Sepia is still missing.

“Everything is a cruel reminder of what we’ve lost and not being able to find (Bongika) is devastating because we can’t grieve or heal. At this point we feel empty,” Lithiwe Sepia, 33, told Reuters.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said late on Saturday that he had postponed a working visit to Saudi Arabia to focus on the disaster. Ramaphosa will meet with cabinet ministers to assess the response to the crisis.

KZN Chief Minister Zikalala said in a televised briefing that the floods were among the worst in the recorded history of his province.

“We need to summon our collective courage and turn this devastation into an opportunity to rebuild our province,” he said. “The people of KwaZulu-Natal will rise from this mess.”

(1 dollar = 14.6076 rand)

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Additional reporting by Syabonga Seshi and Rogan Ward at eThekwini Writing by Alexander Winning in Johannesburg Editing by Barbara Lewis and Helen Popper

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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