Dozens of people still missing as South Africa floods with death toll rising to 443

ETHEKWINI, South Africa, April 17 (Reuters) – Rescuers searched for dozens of people still missing in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province on Sunday after heavy rains in recent days sparked floods and mudslides that killed more than 440 people.

The floods have left thousands homeless, cut power and water services and disrupted operations at one of Africa’s busiest ports, Durban. A provincial economic official estimated the overall damage to infrastructure at more than 10 billion rand ($684.6 million).

Provincial premier Sihle Zikalala said the death toll had risen to 443, with another 63 people missing.

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In some of the worst-hit areas, residents said they were terrified of more rain, which is expected to fall on Sunday. Some faced the agonizing wait for news of missing loved ones.

“We have not given up hope. Although we are constantly worried as (the) days go on,” Sbongile Mjoka, a resident of Sunshine village in eThekwini township whose 8-year-old nephew has been missing for days .

“We are traumatized by the sight of the rain,” Mjoka, 47, told Reuters, adding that his house was badly damaged.

In a nearby semi-rural area, three members of the Sibiya family were killed when the walls of the room where they were sleeping collapsed and 4-year-old Bongeka Sibiya remains missing.

“Everything is a harsh reminder of what we have lost, and not being able to find (Bongeka) is devastating because we cannot cry or heal. At this point we feel empty,” said Lethiwe Sibiya, 33. , to Reuters.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said on Saturday night that it had delayed a working visit to Saudi Arabia to focus on the disaster. Ramaphosa will meet cabinet ministers to assess the response to the crisis.

KZN Premier Zikalala told a televised briefing that the floods were among the worst in his province’s recorded history.

“We must muster our collective courage and turn this devastation into an opportunity to rebuild our province,” he said. “The people of KwaZulu-Natal will rise from this chaos.”

($1 = R14.6076)

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Reporting by Siyabonga Sishi and Rogan Ward in eThekwini Writing by Alexander Winning in Johannesburg Editing by Barbara Lewis and Helen Popper

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