“The heavy rainfall that has descended on our land over the past few days, has wreaked untold havoc and unleashed massive damage to lives and infrastructure,” it said.
Teams have been evacuating people in areas that had experienced “mudslides, flooding and structural collapses of buildings and roads,” Sipho Hlomuka, a member of the Executive Council for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal, said on Twitter Tuesday.
“The heavy rains have affected power lines in many municipalities with technical teams working around the clock to restore power,” Hlomuka added.
Power stations have been flooded and are inaccessible in the hard-hit eThekwini municipality, Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda told reporters, while water mains were also damaged.
The local government has asked private and religious institutions to assist with emergency relief operations, and have requested help from the South African National Defense Force to provide aerial support, he said.
The extreme weather comes just months after heavy rainfall and floods hit other parts of southern Africa, with three tropical cyclones and two tropical storms over just six weeks from late January. There were 230 reported deaths and 1 million people affected.
Scientists from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) project — which analyzes how much the climate crisis may have contributed to an extreme weather event — found that climate change made those events more likely.
“Again we are seeing how the people with the least responsibility for climate change are bearing the brunt of the impacts,” WWA’s Friederike Otto, from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, said Tuesday, referring to the earlier storms in southern Africa.
“Rich countries should honor their commitments and increase much-needed funding for adaptation, and for compensating the victims of extreme events driven by climate change with loss and damage payments,” she added.
The extreme weather events in southern Africa come as tensions mount between some developed and developing nations over who should pay for the damage and impacts of the climate crisis. This is expected to be a major sticking point at the next international climate negotiations, the COP27 conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in November.
Scientists have warned that the world must try to cap global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above temperatures before industrialization, around 200 years ago, to stave off some irreversible impacts of climate change. The Earth is already around 1.2 degrees warmer.