By Madeline Billet
The effects of natural disasters and climate change on forced displacement in coastal nations are under a microscope. KwaZulu-Natal, a shoreline province of South Africa, has been hit with devastating rainfall and subsequent deadly flooding across the region.
Starting on April 8, 2022, the crisis remains ongoing, with the hardest city being Durban, the third most populous city of South Africa. In all of 2022 thus far, South Africa has seen persistently high rainfall, with some regions reporting record numbers, per Bloomberg.
The head of the KwaZulu-Natal province stated that no infrastructure should have ever been built so close to the riverbanks and shorelines of South Africa
There have been 450 confirmed deaths and officials are still searching for the 63 people who are still missing. Several thousands of homes have been destroyed, resulting in a declared national state of disaster. BBC announced that the country has sent more than 10,000 troops to the province in search of those who remain uncalled for.
Survivors of the disaster now face the struggles of not only mourning the loss of their community’s infrastructure, but a mass electricity and clean water outage. South African plumbers and electricians have been stationed in areas where people have been without water and electricity for a week.
In addition to the homes that were swept away by the flooding, the disaster has caused approximately $389 million worth of critical infrastructure damage, including major roads, bridges, and transportation lines in and around the busy city of Durban. 500 schools have been closed as a result of the floods, with around 300 facing damage.
The head of the KwaZulu-Natal province stated that no infrastructure should have ever been built so close to the riverbanks and shorelines of South Africa. However, weather experts have suggested that the rising and warming oceans due to climate change may have played a role in the city’s decreasing distance to the water, as well as the disaster entirely according IOL, a local South African news outlet.
The South African government is being criticized by opposition parties for having “outdated disaster management plans,” and are hence responsible for a portion of the mass casualties. The current government under the dominant African National Congress party has done very little to fight off the claims that they might be accountable for the losses at the hands of the disaster.
Dean Macpherson, the Chairperson of the Democratic Alliance opposition party in KwaZulu-Natal, has stated the provincial government will investigate as to whether the hundreds of deaths could’ve been avoided. Sinawo Tambo, an Economic Freedom Fighters party spokesperson, claimed that because of the province’s past with severe flooding, the African National Congress government should’ve been more prepared, informed, and productive in regards to the disaster.
Andile Mngxitama, president of the Black First Land First party, argued that the South African government’s neglect of the natural disaster is an example of racism that still persists in the country. Mngxitama suggests that if the flooding were to occur in a predominantly white province instead of black, more serious state interventions would’ve been put to use, according to the IOL.
The city of Durban’s largest ethnic group are the Zulu people, representing the rich history of Black Africans in the South African region.