Floods in KwaZulu Natal 1987

September 1987 floods

Between 28 and 30 September 1987, the central and southern part of Natal were ravaged by floods that were amongst the most devastating to have occurred in South Africa. The main cause was an intense “cut-off” low pressure system off-shore which co-incided with a Spring high tide. Destruction of property was catastrophic, nearly 400 people died and about 50 000 were left homeless. Damage to agriculture, communications, infrastructure and property amounted to R400 million (report: De Villiers et al, 1994).

The Mgeni and Mvoti rivers had flood duration periods of up to 24 hours and this caused dramatic erosion. In the Mgeni the island near the mouth was totally removed and scour of generally about 2m took place. In the Mvoti the river channel, normally 35m, widened to about 900m. Large quantities of sediment were deposited over the flood plain. Many bridges were washed away. The greatest disruption to humans was caused by the destruction of the Mdloti and Tugela river bridges on the N2 highway (report: Badenhorst et al. 1989).

1987 flood_Mdloti
1987 flood_Tugela

A letter to Aitch from Lyn from their game farm at Hella Hella in the Umkomaas river valley:

Flood 1987 Letter (1) crop
Letter to Aitch from Lyn Porter


Flood 1987 Letter crop (2)

This picture is actually of the upper Umgeni river. We went with the 4X4 club people to help ferry stranded people across to their homes or back from their homes so they could go to town. Corran Addison is seen ferrying a lady across the Umgeni river. On my one trip I had a person behind me and a bag of mealie meal on the deck of my kayak. So much for my strict One Man One Boat policy!

– Corran Addison on a swollen Umgeni river –

The Umgeni at Blue Lagoon:

1987_flood_Umgeni mouth_2
– before and after –

We got married on Lyn & Barry’s farm in the Umkomaas valley the following February and the effects of the flood were still being felt.


The September 1987 flood was the worst flood in Natal ever. It was centred south of the Tugela river, especially the Mvoti, Umgeni and Umkomaas rivers. Many homes were washed away, collapsed or buried in mud. Thousands of kilometres of roads damaged, fourteen bridges washed away, all entrance routes to Durban closed. R3.3bn damage, 388 deaths and 68 000 homeless.

The more famous Cyclone Domoina in February 1984 flooded the Zululand rivers down to the Tugela river. It killed more than 200 people in SA, Mozambique, and Swaziland. Damage to sugar cane fields was estimated at R470m. Damages to bridges estimated at R25m. 597mm of rain was recorded at Lake St Lucia in one day – the most ever recorded in SA.



  1. screed64 says:

    I seem to remember the roads being pretty slippery on the night of your wedding too. Travelled in Mike’s 4×4 as I remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bewilderbeast says:

      Yep, Feb ’88 and still muddy! And Barry’s old 4X4 Ford F150 tugged a few cars up the Hella Hella pass so they could get to their accommodations at Soada Falls a few km off the farm.


  2. Charnene Payn says:

    I just found this site today on Lyn Porters birthday 🎂 I treasure the wonderful memories at Hela Hela with my aunt and uncle and the rest of our (Payn) family

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jon Taylor says:

    Interesting bit of history – I didn’t see the pictures of the Umgeni?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bewilderbeast says:

      The feature pic of Corran ferrying a lady across the swollen river was taken on the Umgeni. I have also added a pic of the Umgeni river mouth in Durban.


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