Over 400 people have been killed in South Africa following massive floods and mudslides that have also led to thousands being left without homes.
The heavy cost of human life has been coupled with steep economic losses, as operations at Durban, one of the most trafficked ports in Africa, have been seriously hampered by the flooding. Some estimates place the total infrastructure damage cost at around $684.6 million dollars.
Deaths could rise to over 500 as the premier of KwaZulu-Natal, the province which has borne the brunt of the flooding, announced that 63 people were still missing in addition to 443 confirmed deaths.
“We haven’t lost hope. Although we are constantly worried as [the] days continue,” one resident, who is looking for her 8-year-old nephew, told Reuters.
Another told the outlet that, “We are traumatized by the sight of rain.”
The storms caused an estimated 40,000 to leave their homes, and left many in the province without water though some have been able to get it back through the efforts of Operation Chariot, the military-led operation to aid flood victims.
“At this point, we are still surveying all the damage and quantifying,” said KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala. “We want to be scientific and not alarmists about it, and to ensure that we have covered all sectors affected.”
Close to 4,000 homes were destroyed during the flooding, and many of those most impacted were those living in small, makeshift shacks.
“Much of the death and destruction occurred in settlements of flimsy shacks constructed by people who could not otherwise afford stable housing,” The New York Times explained. “Some took place in communities of small, cube-like homes that sit in valleys near rivers or cling to hillsides.
Authorities will also need to mobilize to rebuild critical infrastructure like roads and repair about 600 schools in the aftermath of the storms. The aftermath of the storms will likely exacerbate the economic struggles of the nation which currently has an unemployment rate of about 35 percent.
South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said that the country would need to prepare more adequately for “climate change” to prevent similar situations in the future.
“We need to increase our investment in climate adaptation measures to better safeguard communities against the effects of climate change,” Ramaphosa said.
The president added that relief construction, “will also involve the construction of houses in suitably-located areas and measures to protect the residents of these areas from such adverse weather events in the future.”
According to Premier Zikala, the floods are some of the worst that have ever hit the province.
“We need to summon our collective courage and turn this devastation into an opportunity to rebuild our province,” he noted. “The people of KwaZulu-Natal will rise from this mayhem.”