A total of 85 280 people have been affected by floods which wreaked havoc in KwaZulu-Natal, leaving thousands of people in five districts and eThekwini Municipality homeless, and 461 fatalities.
Giving an update on the progress made by the province following the April and May flood disasters, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala reported that 23 unidentified bodies with DNAs are still not collected.
“A total of 87 people are still reported missing. There are 6 895 people homeless and 50 injured. In all, a total of 27 069 households were affected with 8 584 houses totally destroyed and 13 536 partially destroyed.
“During the disasters we rescued a total of 249 people alive through our search and rescue operations. We currently still have on the ground a total of 3 941 teams involving the SANDF [South African National Defence Force], SAPS [South African Police Services], disaster teams and Road Traffic Inspectorate teams involved in the sectoral responses to this disaster,” Zikalala said.
Zikalala said the demobilisation, especially in the SANDF will happen in a phased manner, but the specialised teams including the engineers and others will remain behind.
The Premier added that while search continues for missing people, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services is being engaged on the process of presumption of death, where it is proven that “we have no prospects to find the missing persons alive”.
However, he said this would be used as the last resort to assist the families to find closure.
R25 billion to repair damaged infrastructure networks
Zikalala announced that the cost of the flood damage is officially at R25 billion, affecting mainly infrastructure networks, manufacturing and agriculture.
“The impact of the floods on eThekwini has been massive and we believe that while we attend to the entire province, we should speed up our response in eThekwini because this is where we are to make the greatest impact on reversing the destruction,” Zikalala said.
He said the settlements located close to rivers and waterways in the coastal areas, including informal settlements, were among the most affected, especially those located in poor terrain.
“We have learnt through a joint study by the eThekwini Metro and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that 1.3 million people live within the flood line in the city. We are also told that 33.2% or more than a quarter of all dwellings in the city are informal structures and this excludes rural dwellings.
“This poses a major challenge to the recovery programme and calls for a long-term approach which will protect our communities from such emergencies in future,” the Premier said.
Major progress in rehabilitation and reconstruction
The Premier also highlighted that major progress has been made to get the province fully back on its feet, and now entering the second stage, which is to restore infrastructure and revive the economy.
“While immediate humanitarian relief has been secured, we are certain that all affected persons are safe and that their basic needs have been met. The focus has now shifted to stabilisation, rehousing people who have lost homes and restoring provision of services as well as rehabilitation and reconstruction (Building Back Better) programme.
“This will involve the construction and repair of major infrastructure. It will also involve the construction of permanent houses in suitably located areas and measures to protect the residents of these areas from such adverse weather events in the future,” Zikalala said.