By Rogan Ward
KWANDENGEZI, South Africa – Rains that have killed around 400 people and left thousands homeless in South Africa this week began pounding the east coast again on Saturday, threatening more flooding and forcing many to take refuge in community centres and town halls.
The heavy downpours in Kwazulu-Natal Province have already knocked out power lines, shut off water services and disrupted operations at one of Africa’s busiest ports of Durban, the main eastern coastal city.
In Umlazi, one of the country’s largest townships, south of Durban, flood victims huddled under blankets in a community hall, while others formed long queues for handouts of food and water donated by charities.
“What makes me angry is that this situation is always happening,” Mlungeli Mkokelwa, a 53-year-old man who arrived at the settlement a decade ago to look for work that he never found, told Reuters TV.
“Our possessions keep getting destroyed by continuous floods that should be addressed by authorities. No one ever comes back with a plan to solve it.”
Climate change activists are calling for investments to help communities around the world better prepare for worsening weather, as Africa’s southeastern coast is expected to see more violent storms and floods in the coming decades linked to human emissions of heat-trapping gases.
While the east coast suffers more violent rainstorms, other drier parts of the country have in recent years been hit with devastating floods, also blamed on climate change, that have wiped out crops and led to water rationing.
The latest rains, which have left at least 40,000 people with no shelter, power or water this week, are expected to continue until early next week.
“We’ve got no water, no electricity, even our phones are dead. We’re stuck,” said Gloria Linda, sheltering under a large umbrella by a muddy road in her Kwandengezi township, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) inland from Durban, before meandering down a dirt track to a funeral of a friend killed by the floods.
Elsewhere in Kwandengezi, a family stood in the rain looking at their collapsed metal shack, one of several homes that lay in ruins.
State broadcaster SABC said on Saturday the death toll was now 398, with 27 people still missing. In places wrecked by flooding, many relatives were searching only to recover victims’ bodies for burial.
“We phoned the police, we phoned the ambulance, we phoned fire brigade, none of them responded in time,” Muzi Mzobe, 59, a prefessional landlord in Kwandengezi, told Reuters in front of a pile of rubble — what was left of a house he was renting out to tenants who were killed in it.