At least 87 people are still missing after devastating floods ravaged some parts of KwaZulu-Natal two months ago, leaving behind destruction and families homeless.
The Department of Justice and Correctional Services is being engaged on the process of presumption of death where it is proven that there is no prospects of finding missing persons alive.
“This will be used as the last resort to assist families to find closure,” said Premier Sihle Zikalala during a briefing in eThekhwini on Sunday.
He said the floods affected 85, 280 people, and 461 died.
“Sadly, we still have 23 unidentified bodies with DNAs not collected. A total of 87 people are still reported missing with 6, 895 being homeless and 50 injured. In all, a total of 27, 069 households were affected with 8, 584 houses totally destroyed and 13, 536 partially destroyed.”
Disaster teams, the police and members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) are still in the province helping search and rescue teams. To date, 249 people have been rescued during their operations.
Zikalala and eThekhwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda visited families housed in the 209 temporary residential units built to accommodate flood victims by the provincial department of human settlements and public works. The building of temporary housing continues, he said, and aimed to accommodate 4, 396 families that slept in halls, churches and schools.
‘Land owners increasing purchase prices for government’
Meanwhile, the availability of land to build homes for the victims remained a problem. So far, four properties owned by sugar producing company Tongaat Hullet have been identified. Furthermore, of the land identified in other parts of the province, 258 land parcels, with 5% located in eThekwini, are ready to be utilised for housing, said Zikalala.
Land owners are doubling prices to benefit whenever they are approached by the provincial government.
“Access to land has become a huge stumbling block to disaster intervention. We need to debate if the existing laws and regulations should, during disasters, not be amended to include expropriation of land through a swift processes.
“Our laws and by-laws are meant to facilitate recovery and should not in emergencies and life and death situations serve as an impediment. “
He lashed out at some who blocked the building of homes within their areas for the families, labeling it a “not in my backyard” syndrome.
“Government has also noted with concern resistance from some established communities who are opposed to the resettling of flood victims on government-owned land next to their properties.
“Yet these communities attempted to take a moral high ground, claiming to be in solidarity with the homeless flood victims. The reality is that government cannot build homes on the very unsuitable land that saw homes being washed away during the floods,” Zikalala said.
‘Infrastructure damage at R6b’
Cellphone networks such as Vodacom and MTN, which were affected by the floods, reported that over 80% of damaged infrastructure was back in operation.
The damage to transport infrastructure amounted to R6 billion, including the M4 and R102.
Restoration of water and electricity has gradually improved. In eThekhwini, the inner west region is almost 90% restored. The south region has improved from 15% to 85% while the north region supply has moved from 15% to 60%.”
“Meanwhile, the construction and restoration work on the uThongathi Water Treatment Works is expected to take up to 4 months with completion in September this year. A budget of at least R30 million has been allocated,” said Zikalala.
eThekwini has made available 20 water tankers for affected areas. About 48 static tankers have been installed in some areas for self-collection of water.
“In total, eThekwini has deployed 190 water tankers to supply water around the city. We are forever grateful to the Gift of the Givers Foundation, which has donated 14 boreholes of which 11 have already been drilled.”
As the province await much needed funding, it began to re-allocate over R3b from its departments to fund the aftermath of the disaster.
According to Zikalala, National Treasury’s much publicised R1b allocation was actually the national budget for disasters across the country for the 2022/2023 financial year. The Treasury budget was at R1.8 billion, he said.
“We wish to confirm that there is no outstanding application from the province either for short-term humanitarian support or the long-term reconstruction. All the applications have been submitted to national government through the National Disaster Management Centre.”
To date, the province has applied for R17.813 billion for provincial departments and municipal damages.
As of 1 June, the donor account had R3.6 million. At least R100 000, said Zikalala, is earmarked by the donor usage by the department of health.
At least R3 million is set aside to fix four schools while R500,000 from the government of Qatar will be allocated to the department of social development, which has to provide everyday meals to the destitute families.