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South Africans face agonising wait for news of missing loved ones

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Residents of the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa are facing an agonising wait for news of their missing loved ones as the death toll in the devastating floods and mudslide last week rises to 460.

Reports from government officials on Monday confirmed that at least 460 people have died in the floods amd mudslides, while dozens are still missing as rescue workers continue to search in the southeastern coastal region.

The Premier of the Durban province which covers the KwaZulu-Natal area, Sihle Zikalala, in a statement, said the dead included two emergency workers, while more than 63 people remain unaccounted for.

“The loss of lives, destruction of homes, the damage to the physical infrastructure … make this natural disaster one of the worst ever in recorded history of our province,” said Zikalala.

“In some of the worst-affected areas residents faced an agonising wait for the news of missing loved ones,” he added.

Sbongile Mjoka, a resident of Sunshine village in the eThekwini municipality whose eight-year-old nephew has been missing for days, told reporters that his family is still hopeful of seeing his nephew alive.

“We haven’t lost hope. Although we are constantly worried as the days continue,” Mjoka said.

Another resident, Lethiwe Sibiya, who also spoke to journalists said “everything is a harsh reminder of what we lost, and not being able to find our loved ones is devastating because we can’t grieve or heal. At this stage we are left feeling empty.”

In what has been described as one of the most devastating natural disasters in the country, the floods and accompanying mudslides were the strongest to have struck South Africa in more 60 years triggered by torrential rains that lashed the KwaZulu-Natal province.

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M23 rebels take control of Kitshanga in eastern DR Congo

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The M23 rebels have announced that its fighters have seized control of the strategic town of Kitshanga, in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after days of intense fighting.

The DRC military authorities also confirmed in a statement late on Friday that its forces have withdrawn from the town in a tactical move to protect civilians in the face of a renewed offensive by the rebel militia.

“We have tactically withdrawn from the city in order to attract these genocidal forces deep into the city and avoid the worst for our people in Kitshanga,” spokesman for the military governor of North Kivu, Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike, said in the statement.

“We are making every effort to dislodge this enemy,” he added.

Videos then emerged on social media showing the M23 fighters celebrating and claiming they had captured the town.

The M23 rebels said it took control of Kitshanga town on Thursday night after capturing several villages on the road linking the town of about 60,000 people to the provincial capital, Goma.

In an earlier statement, M23′s spokesman, Lawrence Kanyuka, has accused government troops of attacking civilians in Kitchanga and elsewhere, and said the rebel group was “obliged to intervene and stop another genocide”.

While condemning the recent development, the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO), said more than 500 people, including women and children, are seeking refuge at its base in the town of Kitshanga.

MONUSCO spokesperson, Ndeye Khady Lo, said civilians fleeing from Kitchanga have been given tents, food, water and first aid.

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Metro

237 African migrants rescued off Libyan coast

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Not less than 237 African migrants were on Friday, rescued after their makeshift boat capsized off the Libyan coast while navigating the dangerous Mediterranean Sea, on their way to Europe.

French medical charity, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which carried out the rescue mission, said the migrants were rescued by its chartered rescue vessel, Geo Barents, which was sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, north of the country’s capital Tripoli, when it received a distress call.

“The Geo Barents ship encountered other overcrowded rubber dinghies with migrants attempting to reach Europe and took them on board,” the NGO said.

“Following instructions by the maritime rescue coordination centre, the ship then sailed towards the northern Italian port of La Spezia.l,” it added.

The MSF and other NGOs operating rescue vessels off Africa’s northern coast have accused the Italian government of deliberately assigning far away ports to discourage their operations, an accusation the Italian Interior Ministry had denied.

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