Residents in the Palmiet River informal settlement told News24 that they have no food or clothes following heavy downpours and floods in KwaZulu-Natal. At least 341 lives have been lost and 40 723 people affected. “The situation is bad,” Azola Mzathu told News24. “This is perhaps one of the biggest disasters in the living memory of our province.
As of Saturday, 398 people had died in KwaZulu-Natal following floods.
State mortuaries are experiencing a backlog in processing the influx of bodies.
Mop-up operations in the province are continuing.
While most people spent their Good Friday in church or with their families, Nosipho Masinga was in and out of the state mortuary in Pinetown, trying to figure out when she could bury her sister and brother-in-law. They both died in the KwaZulu-Natal floods.
With the death toll close to 400, many families are in limbo about when they can bury their loved ones due to the backlogs in state mortuaries.
“I have faced many difficulties that have also affected my mental health. I am so stressed, and it has cost me, and I don’t know what the government thinks of that. My sister died in hospital, and my brother-in-law died at the scene. We wanted to bury them as soon as possible,” Msinga told News24 at the mortuary.
Her sister Duduzile Mawengu and her husband Micheal died after their home in Dassenhoek, Pinetown, west of Durban, was destroyed during Monday’s floods.
“When we got here, it was chaotic, which caused further trauma for us because when you get here to look for your loved one, they say they don’t know them. This is the second time we have come to look for our brother-in-law, but luckily we found him.
When Masinga got to the mortuary, she was given a reference number and a cellphone number. She was told to keep calling to find out when they would release the bodies to the family. Masinga was not given a clear indication of when the bodies would be released. Family members assist with clearing debris in KwaNdengezi after heavy flooding: AFP
“The problem is they don’t let us see the body because they say it will hurt us, because inside the mortuary, people are bundled in. They don’t want us to see that,” she said
“What hurt me was when a man whose six-month-old child drowned couldn’t go inside and identify his child. They told him to bring a picture. I asked myself how he would find a picture following the flood. They should have let him in to identify him,” she added.
A mortuary worker who spoke to News24 on the condition of anonymity said that they were under immense pressure, saying:The mortuary has a capacity of around 80, but we are seeing more than triple that, and we are trying to do our best to get to all the bodies with speed. We usually have only nine bodies a day, but since the floods, we are up to an average of 25 per day.
Micheal’s body was taken to the mortuary from his home, while Duduzile was first taken to hospital, where she was declared dead on arrival.
“We are still waiting to see how long the process will take. I am still worried about my sister, who is stuck at RK Khan hospital, and I don’t know when they will bring her here. I want to make funeral arrangements, but I can’t continue.
“We have spent a lot of money driving around, and when we went to RK Khan to try and fetch her, they said we couldn’t because there was something the police needed to do. We are not allowed to access the body; they said we could only access it at the government mortuary,” she said.
Masinga said that the mother of five worked as a domestic worker and tried her best to raise her children. “My sister worked hard for her children, and I am sure of that. She got a husband, and they both tried very hard. Her husband was a worker and got paid very little. “I don’t know how her children will manage. My sister worked as a maid. She worked hard to build her house and did that while working as a maid, trying to raise her children,” she said.A man is seen searching through debris at the Blue Lagoon beach following heavy rains and winds in Durban.
“My sister was loved by many and respected people. She was a churchgoer, and even the church said they had lost a great character. She had even adopted her friend’s child, who died. She never wanted to see another person suffer. I am heartbroken because God took her this way. I will not abandon her children; two of them just finished matric.”
Luke Katenhe and his brother David, who were also at the mortuary, said they didn’t mind waiting for their nephew Leeroy’s body to be released, as it would give them more time to prepare to take his body back home to Zimbabwe.
“Waiting is not a problem for us. We can not rush the system. Usually, when a person dies like this, and because we are far from home, we can’t process everything in a day, so this will give us time to prepare,” said Katenhe.
Katenhe said they were told to try again on Tuesday to fetch the body.
“We wanted to bury him as quickly as possible, but unfortunately, when we went yesterday (Thursday), they told us the system was down, and they couldn’t help us with a death certificate, so we couldn’t do anything.
“They told us to try on Tuesday, and they might be able to help us, and the system will be okay, but fortunately, we heard that the system was back, and that is why we are here,” he said.
Leeroy died in Westville after a landslide crushed the house he was in. To add insult to injury, David found a post, which has since been deleted, asking for donations using the video he took as people tried to dig Leeroy out of the rubble.
“What shocked me was that I saw a video on Facebook. I only shared that video with my family, and then the next day, I saw it on Facebook. It was so painful because this is a tragic thing that happened to me. Secondly, there are people using account numbers and e-wallets to collect money without consulting us.
“When you do something for people who passed away, you must do it properly. People are taking advantage,” said David.