The search for dozens of people still missing five days after the deadliest storm to hit South Africa’s coastal city of Durban in living memory widened on Friday as the death toll climbed to nearly 400.

The floods, which affected nearly 41,000 people, left a trail of destruction and at least 395 people dead, according to Sipho Hlomuka, regional head of the disaster management ministry.

The official number of people missing in KwaZulu-Natal province was 55, with the government coordinating the search and rescue operation.

According to media correspondents, a fleet of cars and helicopters carrying police experts set out early Friday to search a valley in Marianhill suburb, west of Durban, for 12 people reported missing in the floods. The search for survivors is becoming increasingly desperate.

After following up on 85 calls on Thursday, Travis Trower, a director for the volunteer-run organization Rescue South Africa, said his teams had only found corpses.

President Cyril Ramaphosa called the floods a “catastrophe of enormous proportions… not seen before in our country,” recalling the Covid 19 pandemic and the deadly July riots, and urged Good Friday prayers for the survivors.

“We have another disaster, a natural disaster, descending on our country, particularly on our KwaZulu-Natal province, just as we thought it was safe to get out of (the Covid) disaster.”

“The floods have wreaked havoc and caused a lot of devastation,” he said. ” Let us pray for our people in KwaZulu-Natal to receive the necessary healing… so that they can move on with their lives,” Ramaphosa spoke to members of the El-Shaddai Tabernacle church in Ermelo, in the eastern province of South Africa.

Thousands of survivors are being housed in shelters across the city, sleeping on cardboard sheets and mattresses on the floors after their homes were destroyed.

Mmamoloko Kubayi, the housing minister, told reporters that 13,593 homes had been damaged, with nearly 4,000 of them completely destroyed.

Meanwhile, volunteers fanned across the city’s beaches with gloves and trash bags, picking up debris left by the massive storms ahead of an expected influx of Easter weekend holidaymakers. Morne Mustard, 35, a software manager, was one of hundreds of volunteers, including children, who picked up trash and broken reeds from Durban’s famous Umhlanga beach.

“This is my local beach where I bring my kids and spend my weekends, so this is for our community,” says the author.

He enlisted the help of coworkers, families, and friends to clean up the beach, with beach restaurants providing free breakfast to the volunteers.

“It didn’t feel real, absolute devastation, a horrifying sight, stuff spilling out on the beach must have come from someone’s house… brooms and mops, household utensils, it was such a heart sore to see,” Mustard said of the day the rain fell. Some of Durban’s poorest residents have been queuing for water from burst pipes and digging through layers of mud to recover their meager belongings.

To unlock relief funds, Ramaphosa declared the region a disaster.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana told Newzroom Afrika television that an initial tranche of a billion rand ($68 million) in emergency relief funding was immediately available.

Forecasters said the region received apocalyptic amounts of rain over several days.

The national weather service said some areas received more than 450 millimetres (18 inches) of rain in 48 hours, which is nearly half of Durban’s annual rainfall.

The South African Weather Service has issued a thunderstorm and flooding warning for the Easter weekend in KwaZulu-Natal. “Damaging winds are forecast for areas along the coast from midday (Friday) into Saturday evening, according to the warning that we have received,” Hlomuka said, adding that disaster teams were on “high alert.”

In the midst of reports of sporadic looting, over 4,000 police officers have been deployed to assist with relief efforts and maintain law and order.

The Durban port, one of the largest in the southern hemisphere, reopened for business on Thursday afternoon after being closed due to flooding, according to state logistics firm Transnet.