Churches provide relief after lethal flooding in South African province

(Photo: © Peter Kenny)A storm buffets the harbor in South Africa's port city of Durban on Aug. 22, 2016.

Churches in South Africa responded strongly to the flood disaster in KwaZulu Natal province, and hich at least 440 people are known to have died in what many said is the worst inundation in living memory.

The floods were the strongest to hit the province in recent times and inundated the province following a week of heavy rainfall in the area on the Indian Ocean in the east of the country.

The South African military deployed more than 10,000 troops to help with relief and rescue operations following the devastating floods that swept through parts of KwaZulu-Natal, the BBC reported.

The devastating floods lashed on April 11 displacing thousands of people, especially those living in makeshift homes and scores more were reported missing.

The weather event started April 11 when more than 300 mm (nearly 12 inches) of rainfall was recorded in 24 hours.

Some reports suggest this is equal to about 75 percent of South Africa's annual precipitation.

Scientists warn that floods and other extreme weather events are becoming more powerful and frequent as the world gets warmer because of climate change, AFP reported.

The ensuing floods and mudslides left thousands of people homeless, and knocked out power and water services, as they destroyed scores of hospitals and hundreds of schools in the region.

Floods have also disrupted operations in the coastal port of Durban, with a population of 3.5 million people and one of Africa's busiest harbors.

"It's a tragedy of overwhelming proportions—hundreds have died, thousands of homes destroyed and probably tens of thousands displaced," Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town said on April 16, after visiting the flood-stricken region, appealing for support and prayers, the World Council of Churches reported.

Earlier in an April 14 statement, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, said: "The devastation we have seen – the destruction of homes, schools and churches and the loss of lives – brings us to our knees as we pray for the safety of the people of KwaZulu Natal."

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the floods in the province a national state of disaster to allow the freeing of more resources to boost government capability and technical expertise in providing relief.

The announcement came as rescue teams continued to search for 63 people, who were reportedly swept away by flooded rivers and mudslides.

Officials said nearly 4,000 homes were destroyed and more than 8,000 damaged – most of them in Durban City.

On the ground, churches have actively responded to the loss of life, property and the devastation caused by the floods.

The KwaZulu Natal Christian Council, the provincial chapter of the South African Council of Churches and the KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders Group together with regional ecumenical offices in the province, have partnered with other organizations such as the Red Cross to provide disaster relief.

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