Businesses have halted operations and several key road networks have been closed due to extensive flooding caused by recent heavy rains in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

Last weekend, South Africa was hit with rainy and cold conditions, particularly affecting the Free State, North West, Gauteng, KZN, Northern and Eastern Cape and the highland region of Mpumalanga.

The cold snap not only triggered continuous power outages, but also led to severe localized flooding, as seen in parts of KZN.

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Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Palesa Phili said catastrophic flooding in various parts of eThekwini (Durban Metro) had impacted road networks, infrastructure and major highways such as the M4 and the N2.

“These road networks represent crucial business infrastructure, providing a link between businesses and industries in eThekwini,” she said.

“Any loss in any part of this economic infrastructure for an indefinite period will have a devastating impact on manufacturing, travel and tourism, agriculture and many more. [sectors]inevitably causing huge losses through business operations and expenses.

Phili notes that many businesses are still recovering from the impact of the July unrest as well as Covid-19, and therefore no further losses can be tolerated.

“Any amount of rain in eThekwini could lead to further flooding as the ground is completely saturated. The magnitude and frequency of these storms is proving to be a huge risk to the growth and development of the local economy, especially in an already constrained economic environment, with a major challenge being the inability to transport and deliver goods and services to various destinations. due to flooding and traffic jams,” she added.

Transnet reported that the heavy rains damaged the road infrastructure leading to the port of Durban, affecting access to the terminals.

“Sailing has been suspended until further notice due to environmental damage caused by severe weather, and docked vessels are on standby,” it said in a statement.

READ ALSO : SA halts shipping in key port of Durban after floods

The railway further notes that operations have been compromised at the terminals due to difficulties in handling wet goods at Richards Bay. Rail lines in some parts of the province are also operating at limited capacity.

Bank, mobile networks affected

Standard Bank has reported that 34 of its branches and support facilities in KZN have been closed, with those in the city of Durban as well as those on the South Coast and North Coast being the hardest hit.

The banking group is urging customers to use its digital channels in the meantime to transact.

Major mobile network operator MTN says its services have also been disrupted, with 500 sites in the region down.

“Floods in the KZN area caused power outages at several of our sites and although we have backup batteries at many sites, these batteries are depleted,” said Jacqui O’Sullivan, Corporate Affairs Manager of MTN SA.

“Our main challenge at the moment is accessing sites with many damaged or flooded roads preventing us from recharging our batteries or restoring power to the site.”

The network provider says its main affected areas at this stage are Durban South, South Coast, Umlazi, Malagazi, Amanzimtoti, Ballito and Salt Rock.

Vodacom was also affected.

Cost

According to the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the exact economic cost of the floods has yet to be determined.

However, he can infer from his observations that critical infrastructure and various properties were severely damaged.

“Small businesses may not have adequate insurance to recover their losses, thus jeopardizing their existence and future sustainability. If these losses are not recovered, over time the local economy may [expect to] suffer significantly,” added Phili.

“The south of Durban continues to be affected by heavy rains. This region is home to the largest manufacturers in South Africa.

“If the issue is not resolved, it will have a negative effect on the country’s overall GDP.”

The president will travel to the provinces

President Cyril Ramaphosa will visit the province on Wednesday April 13 to “offer support to affected communities and assess the government and civil society response to this critical situation.”

The presidency said in a statement Tuesday evening that Ramaphosa will visit areas that have been “severely affected by persistent torrential rains that have claimed lives, infrastructure and various property.”

KZN Prime Minister Sihle Zikalala, Metro Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and other officials will brief Ramaphosa on the extent of the damage and the response of government entities.

Ramaphosa will be accompanied by Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Minister of Police Bheki Cele.

* It was reported by eNCA on Tuesday night that Dlamini Zuma confirmed the province “will be declared a disaster area”.

Palesa Mofokeng is an intern at Moneyweb.