Flooded roads, collapsed houses and bridges, mudslides, torrents of water: unusually heavy rainfall has caused chaos, devastation and deaths in South Africa's coastal region.

"We were all surprised by the intensity of this storm," said Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda of the Ethikwini region around the port city of Durban on Tuesday.

"There is a lot of damage, the floods are everywhere." The city has opened community centers as emergency shelters for flood victims.

The priority now is to save human life.

"Here, sheer chaos reigns all around," reports Chris Schädle, the German owner of "Siggi's" restaurant in Salt Rock.

The small South African coastal town is located on the Indian Ocean, not far from the port city of Durban, which is twinned with Bremen.

Schädle's staff had to spend the night in the restaurant on Tuesday night because a bridge that had been washed away blocked a connecting road.

Around 200 millimeters of precipitation fell over the region within 24 hours, reported André de Ruyter from the electricity company Eskom on Tuesday.

The situation was made more difficult by power failures, landslides, but also an outdated infrastructure that could no longer absorb the enormous amounts of water.

According to de Ruyter, the power outages can only be resolved once the continuous rain stops.

"Since the flooding is still ongoing, we are taking stock of the damage." Although it is still largely unclear, the country's media assumed at least 20 deaths.

Property damage in the millions is also feared.

The military has been placed on alert to assist with emergency relief.

Help was also requested from other provinces.

Numerous landslides

According to official information on Tuesday morning, there were numerous landslides and many important connecting roads are under water.

On social media, residents showed videos of torrents of water in houses and settlements as well as pictures of stuck trucks or cars that were swept away by the water masses.

The population was asked to stay in their homes in view of the persistent rainfall, but to leave lower-lying regions.

Floods had already occurred at the beginning of the year.

"But as hard as now - that hasn't happened here before," said Schädle.

The country at the southern tip of Africa is currently in the grip of an extreme weather situation that brings with it a disproportionate amount of humidity in a very short time.

More precipitation was announced for the second half of the week.

For many otherwise a vacation spot

The province of KwaZulu-Natal is located on the Indian Ocean and borders Lower Saxony's partner province, the Eastern Cape Province.

Several German automotive companies and suppliers are also based there.

In the affected coastal towns, where many South Africans and foreigners have holiday homes, rushing fountains of water shot out of lower-lying apartments over balconies on Tuesday.

The coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal is one of the country's top holiday destinations, already bracing for the traditional Easter rush of domestic and foreign tourists.

The so-called Springbok Germans also live there: South Africans of German origin who also settled in what is now the province of KwaZulu-Natal in the mid-19th century.

The Hamburg ship broker and German consul Malte Kersten estimates the number of these South Africans in places like Braunschweig, Augsburg, New Germany and New Hanover to be around 15,000.

Hermannsburg, located inland, was once founded by missionaries from the town of the same name in the Lüneburg Heath. Today it is the seat of a school and a museum.

According to Kersten, there are 5,000 Germans living in the provinces in addition to the Springbok Germans.