DURBAN, April 15 (Reuters) - Authorities in South Africa were releasing emergency funds on Friday to assist tens of thousands of people who were left without shelter, water, and power as a result of flash floods. Homes and roadways were damaged and killed almost 400 people on the country's east coast.
Floods in Kwazulu-Natal Province have disrupted power lines, shut down water services, and disrupted operations at one of Africa's busiest ports. On Friday, the death toll from an earlier estimate of 341, according to the state broadcaster.
Enoch Godongwana, the finance minister, told Newsroom Afrika that an initial one billion rand ($68.3 million) for emergency relief was available for immediate use, following the province's declaration of a disaster area. Local authorities have estimated the damage at several billion rand.
"We are still at an emergency relief phase. There's a need for speed in this situation," Godongwana said. "The second phase will be a recovery and repair."
Volunteers clearing plastic containers and piles of bamboo and driftwood from the Durban beachfront were shown on local television stations. A Reuters witness said holidaymakers were taking advantage of a cold before the rains would resume later on Friday.
Authorities claim that the disaster has caused over 40,000 people to be affected.
As human emissions of heat-trapping gases warm the Indian Ocean, scientists anticipate the trend to worsen dramatically in the coming decades.
Local climate activists are urging for increased investment to assist communities better prepare for weather shocks. Ministers arrived in Durban on Friday to assess the damage.
Christian worshippers laid flowers on a cross during a quiet procession in Durban to commemorate the Easter weekend.
"There are so many reasons to lose hope at this time," Raymond Perry, the director of Christian charities The Dennis Hurley Centre. "The Christian message is: there is hope even in the face of despair."
($1 = 14.6416 rand)