South Africa declared a national state of disaster late Monday following devastating floods in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province which have claimed hundreds of lives and left a trail of destruction.
“The Cabinet met in a special session last night and decided to declare a national state of disaster,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.
Ramaphosa said the government will now coordinate and manage the disaster while working closely with provincial governments and municipalities.
He said the floods which started last week following unusual rains have killed a total of 443 people and approximately 48 others are missing or unaccounted for.
“The floods have caused extensive damage to houses, businesses, roads, bridges and water, electricity, rail and telecommunications infrastructure,” he noted.
The South African leader said nearly 4,000 homes have been completely destroyed and over 8,300 have been partially damaged.
He said it is estimated that more than 40,000 people have been displaced by the floods.
“This is a humanitarian disaster that calls for a massive and urgent relief effort. The lives, health and well-being of thousands of people are still at risk,’’ said Ramaphosa, who visited several flood-affected families last week accompanied by ministers and the provincial premier among other officials.
Ramaphosa said the floods have caused great economic and social damage, especially affecting business, including the Port of Durban -- one of the largest and busiest shipping terminals on the continent which is vital to South Africa’s economy.
“Access to the port has been disrupted by extensive damage to Bayhead Road, which links the Durban port operations to the rest of the country,” he said, adding this route handles 13,000 heavy vehicles per day.
Ramaphosa said it is estimated that over 270,000 learners have also been affected. Over 600 schools have been damaged.
He said the government will rebuild damaged homes and provide basic needs to affected victims, including food and accommodation. It is also working to rebuild damaged public infrastructure./aa