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South Africa flood toll nears 400, rescuers widen search for missing

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South Africa flood toll nears 400, rescuers widen search for missing
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Durban, South Africa: South Africa's flood-ravaged east was hit by more rain Saturday after the deadliest storm to strike the country in living memory killed nearly 400 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

The floods, which affected nearly 41,000 people, left a trail of destruction and killed at least 395 people, said Sipho Hlomuka, the regional head of the disaster management ministry.

South African police, army, and volunteer rescuers have widened the search for dozens who are still missing.

Emergency services in the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province, where Durban is located off the Indian Ocean coast, were on high alert.

Recovery operations and humanitarian relief were underway in the city of 3.5 million which would normally have been teeming with Easter holidaymakers this weekend.

The death count rose Saturday to 398 while 27 people were reported still missing, the government said in a statement. More than 40,000 have been rendered homeless.

"Sadly there are still bodies being recovered from homesteads, especially from the rural areas," Shawn Herbst of the first responder company Netcare 911 told AFP.

"There is still damage taking place, especially with the rain we are experiencing today."

This weekend's rainfall will not be "as hectic as it was in the past few days", according to Puseletso Mofokeng, South Africa Weather Service forecaster.

With the soil being over-saturated with water, more flooding is expected.

The government has announced one billion rands ($68 million) in emergency relief funding.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) chief billionaire Patrice Motsepe donated what he called a "humble contribution" of 30 million rands ($2.0-million, 1.9 million euros).

"Our people are suffering," said Motsepe at a hall sheltering displaced people.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has postponed a working visit to Saudi Arabia that was scheduled to begin Tuesday, his office said.

"The loss of nearly 400 lives and thousands of homes, as well as the economic impact and the destruction of infrastructure, calls for all hands on deck," said Ramaphosa.

South Africa, the continent's most industrialised country, is still struggling to recover from the two-year-old Covid pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people, mostly in the now flood-struck southeastern region.

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