South Africa Halts Shipping at Key Port of Durban After Floods

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South Africa suspended shipping at its main port in Durban after flooding damaged roads leading to the harbor.

Operations at Durban Terminals were suspended on Monday night, Transnet SOC Ltd. said in an emailed statement. The port is a key trade route for South Africa’s landlocked neighbors including Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. 

“Shipping has been suspended until further notice as a result of environmental damage caused by the adverse weather, and vessels on berth are on standby,” spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi said in statement. “There have been no major incidents reported at the terminals thus far.”

Two key highways linking the port of Durban to the commercial hub of Johannesburg and its eastern seaboard were shut earlier on Tuesday because of the flooding.

The so-called N3 highway that connects Johannesburg to the port of Durban was closed to southbound traffic because of debris on the road caused by the floods, KwaZulu-Natal’s Transport Department said on Twitter. Bridges on the N2, the main highway along the nation’s Indian Ocean coastline, have been washed away, Parboo Sewpersad, a spokesman for eThekwini Metropolitan police, said on Durban-based East Coast Radio.

At least 20 people may have been killed because of the flooding, Johannesburg-based broadcaster eNCA reported. Local media reports showed videos and images of A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S-labeled shipping containers adrift in the water. 

“The inclement weather conditions are expected to continue today” in areas around eThekwini municipality, which includes the city of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal’s Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department said in a statement. “This increases the risk of flooding getting worse in all these areas.”

South Africa is this year experiencing the La Nina weather phenomenon, which usually causes above normal rainfall in the country and its neighbors. In January, many parts of the nation experienced the heaviest rains since tracking by district began in 1921.

Meanwhile, at least 45 people have been killed in floods and mudslides across South Africa’s port city of Durban (capital of Kwazulu-Natal province) following heavy rains in recent days, authorities confirmed on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Department of Cooperation and Traditional Affairs told AFP: The death toll could rise, “we are still gathering information from the emergency services.”

Video footage shared by private rescue workers and paramedics shows flooded city highways, submerged cars and collapsed houses.

Rescue and evacuation operations are currently underway, the KZN disaster management department said in a statement.

“It’s an absolute nightmare, lots of mudslides, casualties, collapsed buildings,” Garrith Jamieson, a rescue worker, told AFP. He said there would be “more deaths”.

The risk management department in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal urged residents to stay at home and ordered those residing in low-lying areas to move to higher ground.

Local media are reporting between 11 and 20 deaths but these figures have not yet been confirmed.

The heavy rains are expected to continue on Tuesday, according to forecasts. Source: Bloomberg

Additional source: AP