Image: Guillem Sartorio/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The death toll from recent riots in South Africa has risen to 276 and police are investigating more than 160 cases for murder.

There were 234 deaths linked to the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and 42 in Gauteng.

The unrest started as protests against the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma two weeks ago in his home province. But it quickly escalated into arson and looting.

The scale of the destruction and loss of life, which was fuelled by poverty and inequality that persisted almost three decades after the end of apartheid in 1994, is still becoming clear.

Authorities have managed to bring the violence under control.

However, the economic cost is estimated at more than $1 billion in KwaZulu-Natal alone, as more than 100 shopping malls, 11 warehouses and eight factories were extensively damaged.

The extent of the damage in Gauteng is still being collated.