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Floods in South Africa kill hundreds

Southern parts of the continent's most industrialized country are bearing the brunt of climate change -- suffering recurrent and worsening torrential rains and flooding.

The disaster management department in KwaZulu-Natal province, of which Durban is the largest city, urged people to stay at home and ordered those residing in low-lying areas to move to higher ground.

"Many people lost their lives with Ethekwini (Durban metro) alone reporting 45 so far," while in iLembe district "more than 14 are reported to have tragically lost their lives," the provincial government said in a statement.

"We know it's climate change getting worse, it's moved from 2017 with extreme storms to supposedly having record floods in 2019, and now 2022 clearly exceeding that," University of Johannesburg development studies professor Mary Galvin said.

Fifty-two secondary students and teachers who were marooned at a Durban secondary school were successfully airlifted to safety following "a long traumatic night, trapped", education authorities said.

Days of driving rain flooded several areas, tore houses apart, and ravaged infrastructure across the southeastern city, while landslides forced train services to be suspended.

"At around 3:00 am (0100 GMT), I felt the truck shaking and I thought maybe someone bumped it and when I tried to open the curtain I saw the water level... was very high," said the truck driver Mthunzi Ngcobo.

Durban mayor Mxolisi Kaunda earlier said that power stations had been flooded and water supplies disrupted -- and that even graveyards had not been spared the devastation.

"Droughts and floods will become more frequent and more intense and that's what we are seeing," she said, frustrated at the government's lack of preparedness.

"This is a tragic toll of the force of nature and this situation calls for an effective response by the government," said Ramaphosa.

Rescue operations, aided by the military, are underway to evacuate people trapped in affected areas.

There have been reports of looting, with TV footage showing people stealing from cargo containers.

More than 2,000 houses and 4,000 "informal" homes, or shacks, have been damaged, provincial premier Sihle Zikalala, told journalists.

The death toll from floods and mudslides after rainstorms struck the South African port city of Durban and surrounding areas in KwaZulu-Natal province has climbed to 59, authorities said on Tuesday.

Floods killed around 70 people in April 2019.

"It's not surprising, it's absolutely devastating but equally devastating is the fact that we haven't done anything to get ready for it," she lamented. It said the disaster "wreaked untold havoc and unleashed massive damage to lives and infrastructure" affecting all races and social classes from rural areas, and townships to luxury estates.

More than 140 schools have been affected by the flooding.

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