South African fam­ily’s hur­ri­cane night­mare

Sunday Tribune - - NEWS - NKULULEKO NENE

A FOR­MER Dur­ban fam­ily are count­ing their bless­ings af­ter sur­viv­ing two hur­ri­canes in the space of two weeks, in their new home town of Tor­tola in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands.

Hav­ing en­dured Irma, Philip Mostert and his fam­ily, who had to lock them­selves for nine hours in a bath­room un­til the hur­ri­cane’s dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects had sub­sided, thought the worst was over.

But then they had to face Hur­ri­cane Maria while stay­ing at a refuge camp they had relocated to. He’s grate­ful that he and his fam­ily were once again un­harmed.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Sun­day Tri­bune, Mostert said at least Hur­ri­cane Maria found them pre­pared, un­like Irma, which de­stroyed their home and left them with only the clothes on their backs.

He said af­ter the blows of both of the hur­ri­cane, the is­land was no dif­fer­ent to his­tor­i­cal im­ages of World War II.

“It looked like the Hiroshima bomb­ing in Ja­pan. It re­sem­bled a war zone. Hur­ri­cane Irma was the big­gest storm in the his­tory of hu­mankind.

“We are grate­ful that we made it un­scathed. But peo­ple here are stick­ing to­gether and have started to pick up the pieces,” he said.

Mostert, 41, praised his fam­ily for tak­ing in­struc­tions with­out com­plaint, while bat­tling Irma.

His 18-year-old son Bradley and daugh­ter Jade, 12, held onto the door for hours un­til the hinges broke away. His wife Natasha, 43, held tightly the bath­room cup­board which threat­ened to fall on them.

“The winds were re­lent­less, at some point we thought it was over for us, but we held on through­out the storm. We had our pass­ports ready, but they were swept away, along with our cell­phones.

“It was a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence. What was left of our home was loaded with de­bris in­side, in­clud­ing some of our neigh­bours’ pos­ses­sions. We found their ket­tle jug in­side our cup­board and many other items ly­ing around the house,” he said.

Be­cause of the havoc wreaked by Irma, Mostert said the govern­ment had or­dered a cur­few for fam­i­lies to stay in­doors. But Mostert, an in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ist, had a spe­cial con­ces­sion be­cause of the con­sul­ta­tive work he did for govern­ment.

He said there were many af­fected South African cit­i­zens work­ing in the Caribbean is­lands.

Mostert said he pre­ferred to live on the is­lands and face hur­ri­canes than deal with the crime in his old home in Queens­burgh, Dur­ban, which was bur­gled three times.

“I would rather face the un­known dis­as­ter than face an AK47 back home where I know my fam­ily is not safe. My car was also hi­jacked at gun­point. As we speak, peo­ple are be­ing raped, hi­jacked and killed,” Mostert said.

He said he relocated af­ter he could not find work.


A view of build­ings par­tially de­stroyed by Irma in the French Caribbean is­land of St Martin.

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