First COVID, now floods empty resorts in eastern South Africa

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UMDLOTI, South Africa, April 19 (Reuters) – After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic keeping tourists away, South African resorts along the eastern Indian Ocean coast were hoping for a weekend of Exceptional Easter.

But torrential rains last week triggered floods and mudslides, killing more than 440 people, knocking out power and water and blanketing beaches in the main port city of Durban in KwaZulu province with debris. -Native.

Some hotels have seen a third of bookings canceled and others have been forced to close during what is normally the second busiest time of the year. Provincial authorities say they expected around 360,000 arrivals, but got less than half.

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“Coming out of COVID…we needed tourists to come back, we were getting there, but these rains have taken their toll,” financial planner Eugene Naidu told Reuters at his destroyed vacation home in the town of Umdloti, near from Durban, where the walls were waist-deep in mud.

The southeast coast of Africa is on the front line of maritime storm systems that are being made worse by global warming as it drives up temperatures in the Indian Ocean, and scientists predict that storms will get worse in the decades to come.

Naidu used to rent his apartment on Airbnb and Booking.com and was full in December and January. He said people like him could lose R20,000 ($1,340) monthly income from vacation rentals.

Everyone in his building left the day the mudslide started, except for an elderly resident who had to be rescued by a sea rescue team, he said.

A construction vehicle was still moving mounds of mud on the Umdloti seafront on Tuesday, and Durban’s deserted North Beach was littered with rubbish and mangled branches.

Anthony Leeming, managing director of the Sun International hotel and resort chain (SUIJ.J), which owns a lodge and casino in KwaZulu-Natal, told Reuters business was much calmer than in ‘habit.

“We were hoping for much better Easter. It was unfortunate,” he said. “We certainly hope it won’t have a long-term impact.”

($1 = R14.8962)

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Additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla and Promit Mukherjee in Johannesburg, writing by Alexander Winning, editing by Tim Cocks and Ed Osmond

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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