DELUGE OF PAIN
Residents abandon search for a family lost in KwaZulu-Natal floods
The exhausted people of Nthungwane Extension 5 in Ntuzuma have been searching for five members of their community who were swept away in the devastating floods on the night of 11 April.
‘They are tired and they have lost hope – they don’t have the tools,” said Phume Buthelezi, who has witnessed residents’ desperate search for more than a month.
They have scoured the banks of the Nthungwane River that skirts their settlement, at times even following bad odours that might have indicated the presence of a body.
Then, with picks and shovels, they would dig. But every time, nothing.
Bulelani Ngaleka, his mother Nkosazane and his children, 10-year-old Sikelelwe and 11-year-old Yamkela, are still missing.
Also missing is Nokulunga Makhoba, who, that same night, saved her two children before returning to her home next to the river to salvage clothes.
In the ensuing weeks, search-and-rescue personnel have been to the area. But even with dogs trained to sniff out bodies, they have had no luck. The last visit, said Buthelezi, was about a week ago.
“They promised to come back with an excavator… they said it is too deep for the dogs to smell properly.”
DNA has been collected from the families of the missing.
It was just more than a month ago when the floods hit in the middle of the night. It sounded like the ocean, recalled resident David Teka.
The torrent swept away the bridge on the Ntuzuma access road, taking several cars with it and leaving many people homeless.
Now there are fears of more floods.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Transnet scrambles to repair KZN flood damage as jobseekers invade construction sites”
KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Ziklalala warned on Thursday of heavy rains this weekend.
“We are advised that if KwaZulu-Natal receives an additional 20mm of rain, there is a potential for flooding as the ground may still be saturated following the recent heavy rains.
“We have been advised to expect snowfall and freezing temperatures,” he said at a media briefing, during which he said the death toll from the April floods stood at 448, with 88 people still missing.
Among the dead is an unidentified boy, believed to be about a year old, who was found washed up on Isipingo beach on 13 April.
“We are appealing to anyone who might have information in locating the next of kin to visit Isipingo SAPS,” said police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Nqobile Gwala.
The young victim found on Isipingo beach is an exception, according to Lennox Mabaso, spokesperson for the KZN government.
“Of those who have passed, I would say that 99.9% of them have been identified and have already been buried.”
During Thursday’s briefing, which followed an executive council meeting the day before, Zikalala gave an update on the province’s recovery and relief efforts.
He said the damage caused by the floods was estimated at about R25-billion.
“In eThekwini alone, we have in excess of 100 power stations (substations) which have been damaged during the floods. Water supply has improved by 75% to 80% in most areas around eThekwini,” he said, adding that 188 tankers had been deployed to supply water in all affected areas.
He also gave a more detailed picture of the devastation caused by the floods, saying that 6,895 people were left homeless, most of whom were being housed in 91 shelters.
Ziklalala added that 27,069 houses were affected, with 8,584 of these destroyed.
Back in Nthungwane Extension 5, people are slowly picking up the pieces.
Nokulunga Makhoba’s two children are back at school, but they carry the pain of having lost their mother.
“Seeing those children taken from their mother like that is very sad,” said Buthelezi. DM