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South Africa deploys troops to help with flood relief efforts

South Africa’s armed forces have been deployed to help with relief efforts in the KwaZulu-Natal province, where more than 440 people died following torrential rains that triggered floods and mudslides last week.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said it had been instructed to activate 10,000 troops for tasks including mop-up work and transporting aid.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The SANDF would also provide medical support and helicopters for rescue and reconnaissance missions.

The death toll stands at 443, but with each passing day, hopes diminish of finding more survivors.

The floods have left thousands homeless, knocked out power and water services and disrupted operations at one of Africa’s busiest ports, Durban.

‘Extensive damage’
Swathes of eThekwini, the municipality that includes Durban, remain without power or water, and the province said it could take time before services are restored.

“There are areas that have suffered extensive damage which will take longer to repair,” it said in a statement.

Many streets remain slathered with mud, although the main roads have been cleared enough to allow water tankers to the hardest-hit areas.

But eThekwini deputy mayor Philani Mavundla said in a television interview that 80 percent of the city’s waterworks were down, making it difficult to even fill the tankers.

Outside the town of Umbumbulu about 45km (28 miles) southwest of Durban, herdsman Mbukeni Khwela accompanied police officers and sniffer dogs to scour a river for a missing neighbour who had been swept away.

“We have found her son, but we haven’t found her,” the 59-year-old said.

Police said they were mourning two officers and a sniffer dog killed in the floods, among the worst to affect the east coast province in recorded history.

Many children are due to return to school on Tuesday after the long Easter holiday weekend in South Africa, but authorities warned that 271,000 students may not be able to attend due to damaged schools.

The government has announced an immediate one billion rand ($68m) in emergency relief.

Nearly three dozen search teams were deployed across the region Monday, said coordinator Dave Steyn.

The country is still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people, mostly in the now flood-struck southeastern region.

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