South Africa Struggles to Contain Ravaging Floods, Official Death Toll at 443

While authorities blame climate change, locals allege that poor infrastructure has led to the destruction.

3 min read
Edited By :Saundarya Talwar

Video Producer: Shohini Bose

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

Devastating floods continue to wreak havoc and cause destruction in South Africa, in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), with the death toll reaching 443.

The lives that have been lost to the floods include two police emergency workers.

The government of South Africa has declared a state of disaster in KZN province, while the Durban area (the country's third most populous city) has been the worst-affected.

"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, particularly on our KwaZulu-Natal province. The floods have cause a lot of devastation a lot of havoc," President Cyril Ramaphosa said over the weekend while offering prayers for survivors, reported The Guardian.

He claims that the disaster "is part of climate change," but locals allege that it is a consequence of poor infrastructures like weak drainage and poorly built houses in low-lying areas.


The Scale of the Destruction

Officials have called the floods "one of the worst weather storms in the history of our country."

While the official death toll at the moment is 443 (the majority of them in Durban), at least 63 others are still missing or are feared to have died.

More than 40,000 people have been left homeless.

In his assessment, KZN Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi stated that 13,500 households had been affected, with more than 3,927 houses completely destroyed and another 8,097 partly destroyed, reported by The Sunday Independent, an English language weekly newspaper in South Africa.

A large number of hospitals and around 500 schools have been reduced to rubble.

It is being estimated that in total, property worth $400 million has already been destroyed by the floods.

Port operations have been suspended, which is expected to harm the economy of Durban – a major port city and a commercial hub.

Deputy Social Development Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu has, according to AFP, put 340 social workers on active duty to ensure support for traumatised survivors.


Climate Change or Poor Infrastructure?

Experts are yet to arrive at a consensus on the role of climate change with respect to the KZN floods.

More than 300mm of rainfall was dumped over a 24-hour period on 11 April. This number is huge compared to previous years when flooding occurred.

For example, when floods occurred in 2019 (Durban Easter floods), 165mm of rain fell on 22 April.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) has stated that the 2022 floods were "of the order of values normally associated with tropical cyclones", and therefore, it may not be correct to attribute this event (occurring over a short timescale) to any long-term trend like global warming.

On the other hand, some experts at SAWS itself say that the frequency of severe weather events is increasing because of climate change.

"In other words, heavy-rain events – such as the current incident – can rightfully be expected to recur in the future and with increasing frequency," the agency said, reported by the BBC.


The role of infrastructure is also being debated.

Hope Magidimisha-Chipungu, an expert on town planning from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said that "a combination of this rugged terrain, coupled with poor infrastructure, are factors to the flooding problem the city is experiencing," as reported by the BBC.

"The materials used for building houses... fail to keep weather elements at bay, hence the collapse of houses and loss of life in some cases," she added.

Durban Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has rejected the suggestions that the city's infrastructure is to blame.

He did, however, admit that houses on steep hills lack the foundations to tackle extreme weather.

"One of the factors to this [disaster] is a landslide in those areas," he said.

(With inputs from AFP, BBC, and The Guardian.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from news and world

Topics:  South Africa   Climate Change   Floods 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More