The death toll resulting from intense rainfall in the eastern coastal South African province of KwaZulu-Natal has risen to 306, officials have said.
The rains which began on Monday night flooded settlements, ravaged homes, swept away roads and displaced dozens.
Authorities in South Africa reported that the level of rainfall had reached an unprecedented level in more than 60 years, causing great destruction and the collapse of a number of bridges, as well as damaging at least 248 schools.
In a statement on Wednesday, the provincial government, which confirmed the number of dead, had said the fatalities could rise further in the coming days.
Disaster management teams were evacuating people in areas where mudslides occurred and where buildings had collapsed, the province’s Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) had said on Tuesday.
Dozens of homes were washed away and several roads had caved in, hampering transport and rescue operations. The South African National Defence Force was asked to provide aerial support where necessary, the COGTA statement said.
The rains in KwaZulu-Natal also flooded a dam beyond capacity, making it impossible to operate a hydroelectric generator at power utility Eskom, Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter said in an online briefing.
South Africa’s biggest logistics and freight operator Transnet, which runs the Durban port, suspended operations across its terminals there as the deluge damaged a road and hindered access to the terminals, it said in a statement.
The South African Weather Service declined to attribute the current spate of rainfall to climate change but said such heavy rain events could become more common.