KZN Midlands tornado claims lives, destroys homes, while heavy rain storms lash Durban
Heavy rain and a tornado in KwaZulu-Natal this week have caused loss of life and millions of Rand in damage. A violent storm approaching Durban has already wreaked havoc in parts of the city as municipal clean-up crews attempt to clear debris and minimise traffic disruptions. The weather in KwaZulu-Natal has caused panic amongst residents, as footage of a tornado ripping through a substation in the midlands swept across social media on Tuesday, 12 November 2019. While the destructive vortex of vicious wind poses no threat to the City of Durban, Eskom confirmed that power disruptions were embattling New Hanover and other communities in the uMshwathi Local Municipality.
While a Rand value estimation of damages is yet to be determined following the tornado, the loss of life has left the eMpolweni community in New Hanover outside of Pietermaritzburg heartbroken and devastated. Thuleyliwe Ndlovu, a mother of three, lost her 40-year-old daughter Sphe Ndlovu. She was distraught on Wednesday as rescue teams and officials arrived in the ravaged community.
She said there had been heavy winds and rain which led them to take shelter. "We ran into the house and closed the door. After we closed the door, I went to the bedroom to look for a jersey. While I was looking for the jersey, I heard the roof tiles making a huge noise. When I looked up, there were no tiles on the roof." Ndlovu then heard "loud screaming".
"It seems the wall had also collapsed. It means when the tiles were taken off the roof, the wall also collapsed on [Sphe]. She was trapped under the rubble and one of the sofas."
She said a concrete block was also on top of her daughter. "I couldn't move the blocks because they are heavy. I tried and tried until the neighbours came to help me."
On the other side of the settlement, the family of Nonhlanhla Buthelezi, 45, were in deep mourning. A tree fell onto her home, instantly killing her. Speaking to the media, her friend Kho Ndlovu said Buthelezi was beside herself. "She worked for me as a helper, but more than that, she was part of my family. She was coming to work when this happened. She saw the bad weather and went to put pots [down] for leaks from rain, and the tree fell on her." She said Buthelezi was a "wonderful person". "She was a good decent person. I cannot believe this."
Rescue teams and officials
When entering eMpolweni, officials and rescue teams were met with scenes of disaster. Countless roofs had been blown away, houses reduced to rubble and infrastructure, including electricity poles, knocked down.
The region's sub-station that the tornado went through was not severely damaged, with one Eskom official saying most of the facilities were still in good working condition. In a statement on Wednesday, Eskom said it was working to restore the power to around 5 000 customers.
NGOs such as Gift of the Givers and the Department of Social Development were on the scene to assist those affected.
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) has issued several warnings for the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, including, heavy rain leading to flooding of roads and landslides. SAWS has warned that the displacement of communities as a result of the impending storm is a reality which will need to be accounted for by local government.
While the storm was expected to peak on Thursday, its foreboding presence has already been felt in Durban. On Wednesday morning, residents awoke to fallen trees, flooded streets and a collapsed road. Worse still, are reports that two people died in Inanda, north of Durban, as a result of a collapsed structure. In Ukhahlamba, in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, a 24-year-old was confirmed dead after she had been struck by lightning.
The M4 highway, which serves as a major thoroughfare route between Umhlanga and Sibaya, has been closed to traffic following a land slide earlier this week. The stretch of road, which is often used as an alternative route to the King Shaka International Airport, collapsed after heavy rains soaked the area. eThekwini Metro spokesperson, Parboo Sewpersad, confirmed the incident, saying, “The roadway will be closed for its indefinite period. Motorists are urged to use alternate routes. The alternate routes [are] the R102, N2 and M41.”
Localised flooding has also been reported in Durban south. Residents have complained about the municipality’s poor preparation, noting that storm water drains had not been properly cleared, leading to water build-up with then overflowed onto the roads.
Fallen trees, toppled by the wind and heavy rains, have also been cleared from roads, including the N3 highway at the Hilton Interchange.
Two people have lost their lives and several roads were damaged by torrential rains that have swept through Durban. eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda is expected to visit families whose homes were damaged by heavy rains in the north of Durban. Mayoral spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said two people are reported to have lost their lives in Inanda.
A Phoenix couple is lucky to be alive when neighbours stopped their car from being swept towards a ditch on Greenbury Drive on Monday night. The Phoenix area was hard hit by the torrential rainfall with many of the roads being affected by pools of water on the surface.
Levy and his wife Jenny Nair were returning home from work when a wave of water hit their car as they were entering their complex. Levy told the Daily News that whenever it rained there were pools of water that accumulated at the front gate of the complex. “I slowed down to enter the complex and when I looked into the rear-view mirror I saw this wave of water coming at us from behind the car. I think an embankment burst behind us. Within a minute the car was floating and the water was seeping into the car. I pressed the hooter to alert anyone in the vicinity,” he said.
Levy a father of two children, said neighbours rushed to their assistance and in chest-deep water. “Neighbours opened the door and we scrambled out. My wife was hyper ventilating. You only see this in the movies when cars are submerging into the water but we never thought we would experience something like this. If neighbours did not help we would have been swept into the ditch next to the road and nobody would have known,” Levy said.
Bluff resident Duncan Du Bois said his rain gauge recorded 106mm of rain. On Tuesday, Palmview resident, Samantha Naidoo, was cleaning up her home after a precast and hollow block wall collapsed in her back yard. The deluge spread into the house with residents scrambling to assist the homeowner. Naidoo said they used whatever they could from mops to towels to stop the water from spreading further into the house. eThekwini Ward 51 Councillor Managi Johnson said the roads and storm water teams were in the area this morning to assess the situation.
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Mandla Nsele said the city is ready and prepared to assist residents affected by the heavy rainfall. A number of areas in eThekwini have been affected by the substantial rainfall including the north to the inner west as well as parts of the inner city. The city will be monitoring flood plain areas as well. Nsele said they were still gathering more details of damages caused by the rains.
The M4 between uMhlanga Rocks and Sibiya Circle has also been affected as part of the ground and one lane washed away. The road remained closed.
Source: News24, Daily News and The South African