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Durban harbour was still closed on Wednesday morning with authorities having spent Tuesday night refloating five vessels that were pushed aground, while emergency services were still on alert after a massive storm that killed at least six people.

"[Emergency Medical Services] are still on high alert because rivers are swollen and informal structures were badly damaged", EMS spokesperson Robert McKenzie said of the storm on Tuesday.

Two people died in the heavy downpour when a wall collapsed at the Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi, one person died in the Durban CBD, another was killed when a container fell onto a car and a child drowned while trying to cross a stream in a town about 40km inland from Port Shepstone.

McKenzie praised emergency workers as "heroes" who did everything they could to help communities.

In the meantime, the SA Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa) said it spent Tuesday night and Wednesday morning refloating ships in distress.

"I have not seen anything like it," Samsa chief operating officer, Sobantu Tilayi, told News24.

The MSC Innes, MS New York, Bow Triumph, the SA Shipyard floating dock and the new harbour tug were pushed onto sandbanks.

The MSC Susanna and Maritime Newanda broke their moorings and had to be held by harbour tugs to prevent them from also running aground, according to an earlier statement issued by Samsa.

Bigger ships prioritised

In a statement, Tilayi said the safety authority's principal officer in Durban, Captain Hopewell Mkhize and Durban harbour master, Captain Alex Miya, formed a joint operations committee with the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to help vessels that had run aground.

"We prioritised the bigger ships because of the pollution risk," he said.

According to the statement, it took five tugboats to refloat the 330m long MSC Innes, which was blocking the harbour entrance. It has gone in to port for damage inspection.

Bow Triumph, a 183m long product tanker berthed in Island View, broke its moorings and ran aground on the sand bank near the Island View Terminal. It was refloated at 16:30. The work of clearing the anchors which were stuck was also done.

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