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South African leader visits flood victims as death toll rises to 259

JOHANNESBURG (REUTERS) – President Cyril Ramaphosa pledged on Wednesday (April 13) to help victims of devastating floods on South Africa’s east coast as the death toll rose to 259 from heavy rains that ruined roads and disrupted shipping in one of Africa’s busiest ports.

Ramaphosa was visiting families who had lost loved ones in KwaZulu-Natal province, including a family with four children, after floods and mudslides ravaged homes on Tuesday.

Africa’s southeastern coast is on the front line of seaborne weather systems that scientists believe global warming is making nastier – and predict will get far worse in decades to come.

“You’re not alone… We’ll do everything in our power to see how we can help,” Ramaphosa said.

“Even though your hearts are in pain, we’re here for you.”

Nonala Ndlovu, chief director of the Department of Cooperative Governance for KwaZulu-Natal, told Reuters on Wednesday evening that the death toll had not been updated beyond the 259 that was reported earlier in the day.

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 and injured 80.

“You’re battling one of the biggest incidents we’ve seen and we thought this only happens in other countries like Mozambique or Zimbabwe,” Ramaphosa said.

Meli Sokela, a victim who lost his child in the flood, told Reuters that when the area was inundated on Monday night he could hear sounds like a thunderstorm hitting his house roof, and immediately afterward the walls of his home crumbled.

“My neighbours, they tried to assist me, it took two hours. After two hours, I survived, but unfortunately my child did not survive,” he said.

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