JOHANNESBURG, OCT. 4 -- The death toll from floods in Natal Province was estimated today at more than 300, with additional reports saying 590,000 people were homeless.

Minister of National Health Willie van Niekerk said the confirmed death toll was 205, with 118 missing. He estimated that 55,676 people were left homeless in the five days of heavy rains and flooding that ended Tuesday.

But a survey by a Natal University group found that about 45 percent of black dwellings in squatter settlements outside Durban were uninhabitable, leaving an estimated 590,000 without homes.

If the survey is a reflection of the situation in the inaccessible, rural areas of Zululand, the group said, 1.2 million of the area's 4 million people could be without adequate shelter.

Reporters for the Durban-based Sunday Tribune newspaper said they traveled in Red Cross vehicles to the flooded and cold hills of northern Natal, where Zulus live.

"People huddling along the roadside screamed at us, begging us to stop and give them food," said the reporters. "They have been trapped for almost six days, without homes, food or warmth and no one to turn to in a vast landscape of hills {and} raging rivers."

Health officials warned of an outbreak of cholera and other diseases because of the lack of clean water.

Residents of Durban, the nation's third largest city, lined up at fire hydrants and mobile water tankers to obtain fresh water.

Officials in Durban said one of four damaged aqueducts that supply the city with water was repaired, but water taps that were shut off Friday would probably not be turned on again until after Wednesday.