The devastation wrought by the floods in South Africa’s eastern Kwazulu-Natal Province last week illustrates how addressing the climate crisis must include concurrent action on other social crises, the New York Times reports. The flooding that killed at least 448 people in and around Durban, are exactly the kind of disaster climate scientists warn are being made more frequent and extreme by the continued extraction and combustion of fossil fuels.
The floods’ impact was also made more tragic by housing and other societal inequities that thrust those least responsible for climate change directly into its path. Themba Lushaba was 21 when he was displaced — into a known flood zone — to clear room for a World Cup soccer stadium in 2009. Still living in what was promised to be a temporary resettlement, Lushaba has now survived four major floods, the worst and most recent of which tossed shipping containers like legos. As much as 15 inches of rain poured on Durban in 24 hours, which normally gets about 4 inches in February, its wettest month.
“Climate change is here,” South African Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma told reporters Tuesday. “The scientists have been telling us that the eastern part of the country is going to be wetter and will have frequent floods. … in KwaZulu-Natal we had floods in 2018, in 2020 and we have had floods now in 2022. Of course each flood gets worse than the previous one. So clearly, climate change is with us and we are beginning to feel the effects of it.” (New York Times $; Flooding: AFP, ABC, AP, Reuters; Zuma: AllAfrica; Climate Signals background: Extreme precipitation increase, Flooding)