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Vicious floods destroy much of KZN

The after-effects of KwaZulu-Natal’s deadliest floods.

In April and May this year, deep in the night, the heavens opened up and unleashed the most vicious storms in KwaZulu-Natal, storms that not only ravished homes, washed away infrastructure, and worst of all took lives. Awakening to this massively destructive noise made the shock of the event even more devastating. Rushing floodwaters not only washed away homes and all that was in them, but also roads and bridges, collapsed riverbanks and hillsides, uprooted trees and triggered mudslides.

Hardest hit areas

The hardest hit areas were informal settlements built close to rivers, and rural areas, especially on steep hillsides where there is little or no infrastructure to protect them from the elements. Power lines were down, feeder lines to water reservoirs were damaged. Tankers had to be used to supply areas without water.

Some areas became inaccessible. Community halls were used as homeless shelters. “The journey ahead presented itself as a monumental struggle for those who had lost so much. It’s a journey The Salvation Army will continue to walk with them” commented Major Leanne Browski.

These floods created a crisis that galvanized The Salvation Army, not only in KZN, but also from Head Office and wherever else other help was appropriate. Our staff and volunteers worked day and night to bring some relief. Together with our churches we set about providing and distributing food parcels, foam mattresses, blankets, clothing and sanitary items. We took cooked meals to the community halls.

It is heart-breaking to see people who have lost everything. To know of one family in Hammersdale who lost five children is soul-destroying. Many families are still looking for loved ones presumably taken by the floods. A desperate father and his young son dig all day along a riverbank in the hope of finding their lost home. They are sometimes joined by other young boys who use spoons to help them dig.

One can’t begin to imagine the enormousness of human loss and suffering, we feel powerless to alleviate this suffering, but we are there for them listening to their pain, holding their hands and praying.

“Coping with this massive tragedy is hard. Thankfully we’re in God’s hands – He always provides. The public has been marvelously generous. They have brought clothes, food items and even water and purification tablets. We thank God for their support” adds Major Leanne Browski. Many other NGOs in the area are also helping flood victims rebuild their lives. In addition to all the practical help, we realize that their psychosocial needs are considerable, therefore we also give a great deal of time to counselling.

We can only thank our colleagues for their selfless, courageous and dignified commitment. We all have a single purpose: to make our communities better places to live in.

Food parcels, mattresses and blankets issued to flood victims.
Food parcels, mattresses and blankets issued to flood victims.