51 killed, 1,000 people displaced by floods in S.Africa

People abandon their homes after they were destroyed by torrential rains and flash floods
at an informal settlement of BottleBrush, south of Durban, on April 23, 2019. – The death toll from floods and mudslides that crushed homes in the South African port of Durban on April 23 has risen to 33, with reports of children missing and scores of people displaced, authorities said. (Photo by RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AFP) — Devastating floods in South Africa have left 51 dead and forced more than a thousand people from their homes, according to an updated toll issued Wednesday as President Cyril Ramaphosa flew to the deluged region.

Heavy rains have lashed the southeast of the country, tearing down homes and ravaging infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces.

Speaking to the affected Amanzimtoti community in Durban, after returning from emergency African Union talks in Egypt on the crises in Libya and Sudan, Ramaphosa said “there are more than 1,000 people who are now displaced.”

He raised concerns about Free State province north of KwaZulu-Natal, saying that continuing downpours there were causing “risky situations.”

The government will set aside emergency funding to help survivors rebuild their lives, Ramaphosa vowed.

Fifty-one people have been confirmed dead so far, although local media have given a toll as high as 54, rising from 33 on Tuesday.

Rescuers on Wednesday continued to comb debris, desperately looking for people feared trapped by landslides.

Emergency responders reported collapsed buildings and flooded roads, blocked sewer lines and toppled electricity pylons.

For safety reasons, schools and some businesses were shut in the affected areas.

South African military personnel have been dispatched to help rescue and evacuation efforts.

The South African Weather Services warned that more heavy rain and gale force winds were expected, which could threaten low-lying bridges and roads.

© Agence France-Presse