Africa’s southeastern coast is on the front line of seaborne weather systems that scientists believe global warming is making nastier – and predict will get far worse in decades to come.
“You’re not alone…We’ll do everything in our power to see how we can help,” Ramaphosa said. “Even though your hearts are in pain, we’re here for you.”
Nonala Ndlovu, chief director of the Department of Cooperative Governance for KwaZulu-Natal, told Reuters on Wednesday evening that the death toll had not been updated beyond the 259 that was reported earlier in the day.
South Africa’s northern neighbour Mozambique has suffered a series of devastating floods over the past decade, including one last month that killed more than 50 people and injured 80.
“You’re battling one of the biggest incidents we’ve seen and we thought this only happens in other countries like Mozambique or Zimbabwe,” Ramaphosa said.
Meli Sokela, a victim who lost his child in the flood, told Reuters that when the area was inundated on Monday night he could hear sounds like a thunderstorm hitting his house roof, and immediately afterward the walls of his home crumbled.
“My neighbours, they tried to assist me, it took two hours. After two hours I survived but unfortunately my child did not survive,” he said.
A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in February warned that humanity was far from ready even for the climate change that is already baked into the system by decades of fossil fuel-burning and deforestation. It urged the world to ramp up investments in adaptation.
South African pulp and paper maker Sappi said on Wednesday its staff were unable to travel to work due to the flooding and that the transport of goods had been disrupted, impacting three mills.
South Africa’s biggest logistics and freight operator Transnet, which runs the port of Durban, gradually resumed operations there on Wednesday after suspending them on Tuesday, the public enterprises ministry said.
(Reporting by Tim Cocks, Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg; Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Mark Heinrich)