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20 Flood Victims Buried In South Africa

January 5, 1996

PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Weeping and singing hymns of mourning, residents gathered Friday at a cemetery outside town to bury 20 of the 157 victims of flooding during Christmas week.

Some people fell to the ground in anguish as the coffins, many of them small ones for children, were carried through the crowd and placed in rows.

Flood waters swept away shantytowns when the Umsunduse river burst its banks Christmas Day. Most of the bodies were recovered, but more than half remained in local mortuaries awaiting identification or to be claimed by relatives.

President Nelson Mandela’s government declared the area a national disaster zone and sent $285,000 to help pay for Friday’s funeral.

``I lost so many friends on that day,″ said Lucy Wood, who survived the flooding. ``This is the most heartbreaking affair of my life. It’s really good that we have been given this money for the burials, but it is the ones who are still alive that need attention too.″

Others complained the government should have worried about finding proper housing for the shack dwellers killed in the flood.

``Why didn’t they try to move them earlier, before this disaster happened?″ asked Zephani Musikane, who lost a sister in the flood.

The Department of Welfare has set up a counseling service for survivors, some of whom saw their dwellings washed away or tried in vain to pull relatives from the water.

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