South African floods: Over 300 killed, many still missing - VIDEO

Monday April 18 2022
South Africa floods.

A resident of Umlazi township looks at containers that fell over at a storage facility following heavy rains and winds in Durban, South Africa, on April 12, 2022. PHOTO | PHILL MAGAKOE | AFP


A day of let-up in what had seemed as ceaseless extreme downpours has allowed assessment of the vast damage wrought to South Africa's most populous province, KwaZulu-Natal, with the death toll rising to over 300 overnight.

Many roads in the province, hit by a series of late-season cyclones and tropical storms, along with other south-eastern parts of the continent, remain closed and numerous bridges have been washed away.

Taking advantage of what the South African Weather Service said would be a short break in the inundations, which the Zulu homeland province has experienced, before expected heavy downpours resume this coming weekend, authorities have taken to the air to assess the damage, especially in far-flung and cut-off communities.

"Nobody ever thought of this situation," said a shocked KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala, in reaction to the extent of the damage and the growing loss of life and livelihoods.

Emergency response

The premier said emergency responders were "working hard to restore services", including electricity supply, water reticulation and road access, with extensive damage in both rural and urban areas.


The Port of Durban, one of the largest and busiest in Africa, has been hard-hit, and incoming shipping is being redirected to Coega, about 900km south-west of Durban.

At the height of the downpours that peaked in the first few days of this week, flooding across the province – which is quite used to ordinary tropical seasonal rains – was so extreme that cargo-filled containers were washed out of their storage areas and were floating down roads, including on a major highway, in Durban.

Damage ‘shocking’

The extent of the damage was "shocking" said officials in the province, which has been hit by a series of disasters in recent years.

Flooding similar to, but much less than, that which has this week hit KwaZulu-Natal – home to some 11.5 million people, mainly Zulus, in 2017 and 2019 – claimed about 150 lives and caused much damage.

Both flooding events were severe, with the 2019 flooding by far eclipsing that of 2017.

The 2022 flooding has made prior severe rainfall disasters in the province and neighbouring regions seem relatively 'minor' in comparison.

The extent of the damage to infrastructure in this week's floods, which one official described as "Biblical" in proportion to anything seen in modern times, has been many times that of the previous floods.

Extreme weather

Along with rioting, looting and the arson attacks of last July, following the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, and from which the regional economy was just beginning to recover, the recent extreme weather impacting KwaZulu-Natal has left the province reeling.

The effects of the severe and widespread extreme rainfall, involving days of incessant downpours, are still unfolding.

Among other unknowns is how many people are missing.

With an unknown number of homes washed away, the number of missing was still to be tallied, but was certain to grow beyond the many dozens currently known.

Regional Premier Zikalala said it would take days yet to understand the full impact in terms of lost lives, and damage to infrastructure and buildings.

With a brief window of relief open, disaster relief agencies, most of them civil society rather than government, were rushing food, blankets, clothing, medicines and other humanitarian aid to the region to help the thousands left homeless.

Dwellings washed away

Hundreds have taken refuge in community centres and churches, entire community dwellings having been washed away or rendered unsafe.

But with a church-service intense period coming over the Easter weekend, it was unclear where those taking shelter in churches would go.

Regional officials said they were working "overtime" to provide basic relief services such as shelter, clothing, food and water to the many affected.

The flooding, coming both as flash floods and as a result of saturated ground, has rendered whole areas dangerous for occupation due to slumping and landslides, some of which are responsible for the loss of life, the latest figure for which was put at 306 but which was a "certain undercount", according to first responders.


Emergency workers have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of incidents and are still severely hampered by damage to roads and bridges, preventing access to numerous isolated communities.

Indicating the extent of the damage was that hundreds of cell phone and broadband internet cable stations in the affected region have been crippled or washed into the sea.

The result is that communications, including those between first responders and emergency workers, have been heavily compromised.

Among severely-impacted industries was a major Toyota manufacturing and warehousing plant, with production and storage facilities submerged along with hundreds of new vehicles, now all write-offs.

Imports halted

Supplies of a wide range of goods imported through Durban to other African neighbouring states have also been effectively halted or will be delayed after being rerouted.

Damage done so far is so extensive that it would "take months" to recover, said authorities, not including a much longer period to rebuild some washed out bridges and overpasses.

With additional heavy rain forecast, fears were being expressed by both officials and citizens of what may next be in store, should the inundations resume this weekend and into next week, as expected.