Hundreds have been displaced, mainly in the port city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal province. Flooding also killed at least three people in Eastern Cape province, state broadcaster SABC said on Wednesday.
Victor da Silva, a resident in the coastal town of Amanzimtoti, said his family managed to evacuate before the floods destroyed their home and cars.
“On Monday, the water was just crazy. And yesterday morning I got here, everything was fine, my garage was still here, the other part of the house was still here, and it just couldn’t stop raining,” Da Silva said. “And then an hour and half later, everything poof (vanished) because the rain just hasn’t stopped.
Johan Fourie told eNCA television that he escaped his home in Amanzimtoti just before part of it collapsed.
“I nearly lost my life, and my neighbor, I believe, is in hospital,” Fourie said.
The region had been hit by heavy rains for days, but authorities did not foresee the downpour late on Monday, said Lennox Mabaso, a spokesman for the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department.
“As a result, there was flooding and some structures were undermined and collapsed on people,” Mabaso said. Some people were swept away by the water, he said.
Multiple dwellings collapsed in the mudslides, said Robert McKenzie, a KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman.
South African Weather Service forecaster Edward Engelbrecht said the heavy rainfall occurs “from time to time, especially during this time of the year.”
He said the rain should start to clear by Thursday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal and is scheduled to go to the Eastern Cape in the next few days.
“This is partly what climate change is about, that it just hits when we least expect it,” he said, adding that funds would be provided by the government to assist those hit by the floods.
Last week, 13 people were killed during an Easter service in KwaZulu-Natal when a church wall collapsed after days of heavy rains and strong winds.