Officials report 306 deaths from rains, the heaviest in six decades, that wreaked havoc in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend, destroying homes and infrastructure.

Men sift through the rubble of a church that collapsed onto a house killing four children in Clermont, Durban.
Men sift through the rubble of a church that collapsed onto a house killing four children in Clermont, Durban. (Reuters)

The death toll from devastating floods in and around the South African port city of Durban has risen to 306, the government said, after roads and hillsides were washed away as homes collapsed.

"By the evening of 13th of April, we have been informed that the death toll from the floods disaster in KZN (KwaZulu-Natal) province has risen to 306 people" Nonala Ndlovu, spokesperson for the provincial disaster management department said.

Her office said the death toll is "one of the darkest moments in the history" of KZN.

Earlier on Wednesday Ndlovu had put the toll at 259.

The heaviest rains in 60 years pummelled Durban's municipality, known as eThekwini. The storm is belived to be the deadliest on record in South Africa.

Search continues for missing 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the floods as a "catastrophe" and a "calamity".

"Bridges have collapsed. Roads have collapsed. People have died," he said, adding that one family lost 10 members. 

At least 248 schools have been damaged 

"This is a catastrophe of enormous proportions," he said, addressing a local community after inspecting the damage from the floods.

The search for missing persons is still going on, said Ramaphosa, promising to "spare nothing" in dealing with the disaster and offering assistance to the affected.

"This disaster is part of climate change. We no longer can postpone what we need to do... to deal with climate change."

"It is here, and our disaster management capability needs to be at a higher level," said the president.

READ MORE: Heavy rains claim dozens of lives in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal

Inclement weather  

The rain continued in parts of the city on Wednesday afternoon, and a flood warning was issued for the neighbouring province of Eastern Cape.

The storm struck as Durban had barely recovered from deadly riots last July which claimed more than 350 lives, in South Africa's worst unrest since the end of apartheid.

The national police force deployed 300 extra officers to the region, as the air force sent planes to help with the rescue operations.

More than 6,000 homes were damaged. Floods killed 140 people in 1995.

READ MORE: Hundreds left homeless as floods sweep eastern South Africa

Source: AFP