Flooding in South Africa’s Durban area has killed at least 306 people and is a “catastrophe of enormous proportions,” President Cyril Ramaphosa says.
“This disaster is part of climate change. It is telling us that climate change is serious, it is here,” Mr Ramaphosa said as he visited flooded areas of Durban and the surrounding eThekwini metropolitan area.
“You’re not alone … We’ll do everything in our power to see how we can help. Even though your hearts are in pain, we’re here for you,” he added.
“We no longer can postpone what we need to do, and the measures we need to take to deal with climate change.”
The death toll is expected to continue rising as search and rescue operations continue in KwaZulu-Natal province, officials said.
Mr Ramaphosa said the whole province would be declared a disaster area.
“The bridges have collapsed, the roads have collapsed, people have died and people are injured,” he said.
He said one family had lost 10 members.
Residents were forced to flee as homes were swept away, buildings collapsed and roads were torn up.
Durban port was flooded and shipping containers were swept away into a jumbled heap.
Authorities were also seeking to restore electricity to large parts of the province after heavy flooding at various power stations.
Rescue efforts by the South African National Defence Force were delayed as the military’s air wing was also affected by the floods, General Rudzani Maphwanya said.
The military was able to deploy personnel and helicopters around the province on Wednesday, he said.
Some areas recorded daily rainfall totals in excess of 160 millimetres, the country’s weather bureau said.
Forecasters warned of continued wind and rain and the risk of continued flooding in Kwazulu-Natal and other provinces over the upcoming Easter weekend.
South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Free State and North West provinces could be affected, it said.
Africa’s south-eastern coast is on the front line of seaborne weather systems that scientists believe are being intensified by global warming.
South Africa’s northern neighbour Mozambique has suffered a series of devastating floods over the past decade, including one last month that killed more than 50 people.