A record rainfall event in Kwazulu-Natal on the 11th of April led to floods, landslides and the destruction of homes and public infrastructure. At the time of writing the death toll from the extreme weather had mounted to 485 people, and the total number of casualties had yet to be confirmed.
The South African Weather Service had issued a level 5 warning earlier in the day, which was later lifted to a level 8 warning. Nevertheless, the actual rainfall was much higher than expected, with some gauging stations reporting a downpour of more than 200 mm in 24 hours, and a few reporting more than 300 mm.
In some cases, the flooding on city highways reached the point at which only the tops of streetlights were above water. eThekwini Municipality reported that some 2,000 homes built under the government’s Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) had been damaged, and more than 4,000 shacks have been swept away by the floods. Many roads have been severely damaged, and bridges have collapsed in several areas.
The provincial government worked with the South African National Defence Force to provide evacuation services, while disaster management teams and humanitarian groups are working to provide medical aid, food and blankets to affected communities.
South Africa has experienced some severe flooding events recently, and the situation appears to be worsening since 2017 according to Mary Galvin, Professor of Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg. In addition, the Durban Chamber of Commerce has called on the government to conduct a review of road networks and stormwater drainage systems in view of the scale of destruction caused by the storms.