South Africa’s government has sought to reassure a worried public about efforts to help the east coast, where millions remained without water more than a week after floods and deadly storms pounded the region.
Following up a declaration of a national state of disaster, President Cyril Ramaphosa dispatched top ministers to the city of Durban and KwaZulu-Natal province, where at least 448 people have now died and 40 000 are homeless.
“These floods are the worst floods that we have ever seen in living memory,” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the minister in charge of disaster management, told a news conference.
More than 600 schools were damaged by the floods, with 101 rendered inaccessible.
“Literally, the only thing you can find is teachers and pupils. Material is completely gone,” said Education Minister Angie Motshekga after inspecting damage at some schools in Durban, estimating the damage at $30 million.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla visited the Prince Mshiyeni regional hospital, where for the past week, patients have used buckets to bathe and flush toilets.
“The main challenge there is water,” adding that repairs were underway to restore water. Normally the hospital sees 2 000 patients a day.
Minister of Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan said the Durban shipping terminal, the second-largest container port in Africa, was fully functional, since Tuesday.
During the height of the floods last week, containers were tossed about like building blocks.The 8 000 to 9 000 shipping containers that had been backlogged because of a damaged access road, would be cleared within a week, he said.
Key roads connecting the port to the rest of the country sustained heavy damage, creating bottlenecks for around 13 000 truckers who daily have to get goods to and from the port, serving a vast stretch of Africa as far as the Democratic Republic of Congo.