President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged to help victims of devastating floods on South Africa’s east coast on Wednesday, as the death toll rose to 259 people from heavy rains that ruined roads and disrupted shipping in Durban – one of Africa’s busiest port cities.
Ramaphosa was visiting families who had lost loved ones in KwaZulu-Natal province, including a family with four children, after floods and mudslides ravaged homes on Tuesday.
Africa’s south eastern coast is on the front line of seaborne weather systems that scientists believe global warming is making nastier – and predict will get far worse in decades to come.
“You’re not alone…We’ll do everything in our power to see how we can help,” Ramaphosa said. “Even though your hearts are in pain, we’re here for you.”
Nonala Ndlovu, the chief director of the Department of Cooperative Governance for KwaZulu-Natal, told Reuters the latest police estimate of the death toll.
South Africa’s northern neighbour Mozambique has suffered a series of devastating floods over the past decade, including one last month that killed more than 50 people and injured 80.
“You’re battling one of the biggest incidents we’ve seen and we thought this only happens in other countries like Mozambique or Zimbabwe,” Ramaphosa said.
A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in February warned that humanity was far from ready even for the climate change that is already baked into the system by decades of fossil fuel-burning and deforestation. It urged the world to ramp up investments in adaptation.
South African pulp and paper maker Sappi, which has a major presence in KwaZulu-Natal, said on Wednesday its staff were unable to travel to work due to the flooding and that the transport of goods had been disrupted, impacting three mills.
South Africa’s biggest logistics and freight operator Transnet, which runs the port of Durban, gradually resumed operations there on Wednesday after suspending them on Tuesday, the public enterprises ministry said.