Over 300 people have lost their lives in catastrophic flooding in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province in South Africa. The government declared a state of disaster in the province after “one of the worst weather storms in the history of our country.”
Flooding began after heavy rainfall from 09 April 2022. The rain increased in intensity on 11 April with areas including Margate, Durban, Sezela and Mount Edgecombe all receiving more than 300 mm of rain in 24 hours.
Announcing the state of disaster declaration, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government said, “Since yesterday (11 April 2022) the Province of KwaZulu-Natal experienced what is one of the worst weather storms in the history of our country. The heavy rainfall that has descended on our land over the past few days, has wreaked untold havoc and unleashed massive damage to lives and infrastructure.”
The rain caused several rivers including the Amanzimtoti, Umbilo, and Umgeni to overflow, causing widespread damage and destruction in shanty towns and communities along river banks. Full damage assessments are yet to be completed but authorities speculated thousands of houses and shanty homes were damaged or destroyed. Over 200 schools have also been damaged.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department (KZN COGTA) said as of late 13 April the latest reports indicate that 306 people have lost their lives as a result of the heavy rains.
Officials said the rain and floods caused “billions worth of destruction to critical infrastructure.” Roads and bridges were severely impacted by the flooding, hampering relief and recovery efforts. Electricity and water infrastructure were also severely damaged. Clean-up operations started in parts of the province after the rain eased from late 13 April, COGTA said. Electricity and water supply were interrupted but have since resumed in some areas.
eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality saw catastrophic damage. The municipalities of Ilembe, Uthukela, King Cetshwayo, Ugu, uMgungundlovu and Umzinyath were all severely impacted, the provincial government said.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected areas on 13 April to see for himself the massive destruction caused by the heavy rains.
“The Presidential entourage witnessed instances where a number of homes had been washed away, church roofs collapsed on top of children, bridges and roads damaged cutting off entire villages and township sections. Water and electricity supply has also been badly affected in most areas of KwaZulu-Natal and over 200 schools have been damaged in the aftermath of this inclement weather,” the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government said.
Shongweni Dam Collapse
During the worst of the flooding there were reports of the collapse of the Shongweni Dam, situated just outside Durban. However the Department of Water and Sanitation South Africa promptly dismissed these claims. In a statement of 13 April, the department said:
“We would like to reiterate that Shongweni Dam has not collapsed. The dam is equipped with 10 Hydroplus fuse gates which are designed to “tip” and fail in sequence to avoid catastrophic failure of the entire dam. Gate 1 on the far left and Gate 2 on the far right starts tipping when the dam reaches a specific level.
“Had this not occurred, the dam was going to be subjected to more pressure which would threaten the stability of the concrete wall. So it is behaving as it should during flood conditions as presently experienced in parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
“We are keeping a close eye on this, there is no need to be alarmed.”