Seven people have died and at least another seven are missing in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal after the southeastern province was hit by heavy rain and a tornado, local authorities said on Friday.
Powerful winds and rainfall damaged roads and flooded houses and sewer systems, followed by a tornado that struck north of the port city of Durban on Tuesday.
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“Regrettably, so far four people have been confirmed to have lost their lives,” the province’s disaster management department said in a statement on Thursday.
By then, three people had been confirmed dead in Durban but authorities said on Friday that the deaths there had doubled. One person also died in Port Sheptsone, a beachside town about 120 kilometres (75 miles) to the south.
Rescue teams are still searching for seven more people, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government said.
About 70 houses have been destroyed and more than 100 damaged in the wild weather. More than 150 people have been left homeless, the provincial government said. People were taking refuge in schools and other buildings.
Local daily News 24 reported Nonala Ndlovu, a spokesperson for the provincial department of cooperative governance, as saying that public infrastructure, including sewage systems, has also been damaged.
The rainy season in KwaZulu-Natal usually runs from November to March, and exceptional rainfall at this time of year is unusual, the department said.
“We are experiencing first hand the true effects of climate change during the winter season,” it said.
In April 2022, the province was hit by the worst floods in living memory, causing more than 400 deaths in Durban and surrounding areas.
Experts have warned that floods and other extreme weather events are becoming more powerful and frequent as the world gets warmer, due to climate change.