The death toll from South Africa’s “unprecedented” floods climbed to 341 on Thursday as helicopters fanned out across the southeastern city of Durban in an increasingly desperate search for survivors.
With roads and bridges washed away by rainfall this week, rescuers battled to deliver supplies across the city where some residents have been without power or water since Monday.
“The level of devastation of human life, infrastructure, and service delivery network in the province is unprecedented,” said Sihle Zikalala, premier of KwaZulu-Natal.
“A total number of 40,723 people have been affected. Sadly, 341 fatalities have been recorded,” he told a news conference.
At a small airport north of Durban, helicopters carried rescuers in and out. The air support was pulled not only from the military and police, but also a fleet of volunteers, private contractors and schools.
But one day after the rains finally subsided, fewer survivors were being found, said Travis Trower, a director for the volunteer-run organisation Rescue South Africa. From 85 calls on Thursday, he said his teams had found only corpses.
“It’s unfortunate, but we do the best we can for as many people as we can,” he said.
The government has given no indication of how many people are missing. Zikalala predicted the bill for damage will run into billions of rand.