Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Over the span of nearly two years, devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have claimed the lives of over 500 people and caused extensive damage to property and state infrastructure, with experts citing climate change, land degradation, and poor land-use as contributing factors.

In April 2022, heavy rains led to severe flooding across the province, resulting in a catastrophic natural disaster. The water levels rose significantly, causing metal shipping containers and cars to float on freeways. Northern areas like uMdloti, Blackburn informal settlement, and Cornubia witnessed houses and complexes being washed away.

Research by Wits University, led by Professors Stefan Grab and David Nash, indicated that the April flooding was the most catastrophic natural disaster recorded in KZN, considering lives lost, homes and infrastructure damaged, and economic impact.

According to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), the April 2022 floods resulted in 459 deaths, around 80 people missing, 4,000 homes destroyed, 40,000 people left homeless, and 45,000 temporarily unemployed. The estimated cost of infrastructure and business losses reached US$2 billion (approximately R39 billion).

In 2023, the region faced renewed anxiety when flood warnings were issued. Persistent rains from mid-December 2023 led to flooding in Durban and other parts of the province. In the uThukela District alone, 26 people died during the festive period. The death toll from recent flooding incidents stands at 58.

Residents reported multiple floods since September 2023, and on Christmas day, over 1,400 homes were destroyed in Ladysmith. The ongoing rains have caused delays in repair efforts, and search and rescue operations are still underway.

Dr. Andries Kruger from the South African Weather Service (Saws) emphasized that climate change, combined with land degradation, alien vegetation, arbitrary settlements along rivers, and poor land-use, significantly contribute to flooding and associated damages. Kruger noted that intense daily rainfall has become more likely, particularly in the eastern parts of the country, according to research conducted by Saws over the last century.

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