Torrential rains in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province over the weekend have displaced hundreds, according to officials, only one month after unprecedented floods devastated the area.
“We have seen the damage is huge,” said KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, speaking at a press briefing on Monday while visiting the coastal city of Durban.
There has been major damage particularly to roads and bridges some of which are expected to be inaccessible for some time, he added.
So far, the rains haven’t caused the widespread death and destruction of the previous flood just over a month ago. Officials say they are investigating one death after a body was discovered.
KwaZulu-Natal had barely started rebuilding roads, buildings and houses destroyed by floods and mudslides a few weeks ago. In the April flooding, an estimated 500 people died with some people still missing.
Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers Foundation, is coordinating aid efforts in impacted areas. He says relief work can’t begin in earnest yet, as meteorologists are warning of yet more danger in the region.
“Water levels and the sea will rise substantially, beyond 3 meters, which means there’ll be a backflow into rivers. Smaller rivers will become much bigger and streams will become much bigger,” he said.
But despite the tragedy of six weeks ago, Sooliman says some people aren’t heeding warnings.
“People just don’t understand that it’s highly deceptive when you see water on the road,” he said. “Undercurrents can be very, very strong. It can suddenly take your wheels and move you away. It’s very, very high-risk.”
Although people are being evacuated, Sooliman says, poor people often refuse to leave their homes when advised because they are afraid to lose their possessions.
With increasing rainfalls, some weather experts say the unusual patterns are only the beginning of the fallout from climate change in Southern Africa.