KwaZulu-Natal floods death toll rises to 447, 89 still missing

The KwaZulu-Natal floods death toll has risen to 447, according to national police commissioner Fannie Masemola, who was joined by Police Minister Bheki Cele during a ceremony to release the search and rescue units.

The units were at the forefront of search and rescue operations following the floods that battered parts of the province in April. Masemola said 89 people are still missing, adding that to date, the units have responded to 854 call-outs and scene visits.

“These call-outs and scene visits have led to the rescue of 165 victims that were found alive. Eighty-seven of the inaccessible deceased victims’ bodies were recovered by the rescue teams in the Great eThekwini area,” Masemola said.

Cele said there are lessons to be learned from the KwaZulu-Natal floods.

“During the floods no one cared about their race, political affiliation or anything like that, everybody wanted to help or save [other people]. While the police and other stakeholders did all they could in difficult times, there must be better national coordination of disaster relief response in the future,” said Cele.

The search and rescue teams, which consisted of frontline officers, K9 units, diving teams with various vessels, helicopters, and fixed airwing planes from across the country, responded to the floods after President Cyril Ramaphosa declare a state of disaster in the province.

The government has since announced multi-faceted interventions for the victims of the floods ranging from measures to alleviate the economic impact on road users to the rebuilding and rehabilitation of infrastructure.

Addressing a media briefing on Friday last week in relation to the much-needed relief in the transport sector, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said government is working closely with communities to ensure speedy repairs to both the road and rail infrastructure in the shortest possible time is realised.

“The quantum cost for the repairs and rehabilitation of the rail network affected by flood damage is estimated at R3.3 billion. The disaster compounded an already challenged rail network that had been hit hard by theft and vandalism of rail infrastructure,” Mbalula said at the time.

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Coceka Magubeni

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