KZN STORM HAVOC
Several killed as high winds and flood waters lash Durban
IT was like a scene out of Armageddon.
That is how terrified residents have described a massive storm that wreaked havoc in Durban and surrounding areas yesterday, leaving at least six people dead and millions in damage to property.
The severe thunderstorm, with galeforce winds reaching 70 km/h and torrential downpours, left residents, visitors and motorists traumatised as they struggled to find places of safety.
“I have never seen anything like this before. It was so scary,” said a resident, Sharon Chetty.
Dumisani Mxo Khabazela said he feared for his safety as he was trapped in a taxi to the Durban CBD.
“It was very scary. Everyone in the taxi was praying, we thought it was the end of the world.
“It’s very sad because some houses in our area were also damaged. There are people who have been left without shelter,” Khabazela said.
Witness sports reporter Nondumiso Zakwe, who was also trapped in the storm, said it was a “terrifying” experience.
“The road was covered in water. Seeing vehicles stranded in kneehigh water on the side of the road and some already submerging, was terrifying. I thought we were going to get swept away with the car,” Zakwe said.
Emergency services were on high alert after reports of vehicles being washed away on the N2 highway near Amanzimtoti filtered through early yesterday morning.
Social media was abuzz throughout the day with dramatic footage of vehicles submerged under waves of water while motorists and passengers ran for safety.
The N2 near Galleria Mall was closed to traffic on both sides as the highway flooded, leaving vehicles, including trucks, and motorists stranded on the roadside.
eThekwini Municipality issued an urgent warning to motorists to stay off the roads and for residents to remain in their homes while the storm passed through.
By midday yesterday, the South African Weather Services recorded that 83 mm of rainfall had fallen in the Durban region.
“All roads in the southern parts of Durban have been closed. Our Disaster Management call centre is currently ex periencing high call volumes,” read the municipality’s statement.
The KZN Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and ER24 confirmed at least four fatalities by late afternoon yesterday, while the Health Department reported that two patients were killed when a wall collapsed at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital.
ER24 spokesperson Werner Vermaak said one man was killed when two shipping containers fell on the car he was travelling in on Rotterdam Road in Bayhead.
Vermaak said paramedics were alerted to several vehicles under water along the N2.
“ER24 paramedics responded to several calls for assistance.
“Some of the incidents include a family trapped inside their home when it flooded in Barlew Mews, an ambulance that overturned, leaving two medical crew injured along the N2 in Umgababa, two taxis that collided in Magabeni and several other distress calls,” said Vermaak.
Paul Herbst of IPSS Medical Rescue said his team responded to an incident in uMlazi D section, where a creche close to a river had flooded.
“The teacher from the creche managed to grab three of the children. Unfortunately a fourth child got swept down to the river in the floods.
“We are currently conducting a search down river, the river is still flowing very strong,” Herbst said.
Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said that in Nquthu local municipality, an eightyearold girl was struck by lightning and in KwaMngxangala area, a 46yearold man drowned while trying to cross an overflowing river.
Mabaso said they expect the death toll to rise.
THE Health Department reported flooding and damage at most of its facilities in the Durban region, with Prince Mshiyeni the hardest hit. As well as the two patients killed there, another two were seriously injured and several wards were heavily damaged, requiring patients, including premature babies in the neonatal ICU, to be moved.
The department listed flooding and other damage, including roofs blown off and windows smashed at hospitals around the region.
Dramatic images of vehicles submerged in water, buildings with their roofs ripped off and flooded homes were doing rounds on social media.
SAWS forecaster Mbavhi Naliage said they expected the weather to calm down by today with partly cloudy conditions expected.
Naliage said the current system over the province was due to “cutoff low”.
Naliage said cutoff lows happen because the air in the midlevels of the atmosphere over South Africa generally flows from west to east. When this flow is disturbed, a trough forms.
She urged people to refrain from calling it a hurricane or cyclone. “It is not a tropical cyclone. It is expected to calm down late afternoon [yesterday],” she said. According to Media24’s Aman
zimtoti Fever there were reports of a mudslide across the N2 between Toti and Seadoone Road, where vehicles were reportedly aquaplaning.
The N2 North was also flooded at Toti River through Adams Road offramp.
Kuswag and Kingsway schools were reportedly closed for the day. A taxi was also stuck on the N2 freeway just after Galleria Mall, forcing passengers to brave the elements in an attempt to reach the safety of the paramedic vans.
Rescue Care spokesperson Ceron Lennox said paramedics had a tough time navigating through gridlocked traffic to get to those in need yesterday.
She said paramedics worked tirelessly attending to accidents and freeing people trapped in flooded cars and houses.
“The rain was hectic. So many roads were flooded and traffic was backed up so it was very difficult getting where we needed to be. When roads were flooded, we had to use alternative roads, but 90% of those alternative roads were either flooded or gridlocked.”
She said paramedics made numerous efforts freeing people from cars. In one incident, paramedics freed three people trapped in a flooded bus on the M7 below Sarnia Road. “So many people were scared of water and couldn’t swim,” she said.
Meanwhile, in Pietermaritzburg police had to call off a search for the body of a man who was swept away by the water in Sobantu on Sunday night, during the start of the stormy conditions.
Mountain Rise police station spokesperson Captain Gay Ebrahim said the police had been unable to find the man as yet.
“They are waiting for the water to subside and then they will continue with the search,” said Ebrahim. The police said the man’s identity had not yet been established. • firstname.lastname@example.org
Flooding on the N2 south of Durban near the old airport yesterday.
CENTRE: The scene in Rotterdam Road in Durban Harbour where a container fell on a car, killing one policeman and injuring another.
RIGHT: The chaos in uMngeni Road in Durban after the road caved in following heavy flooding.
LEFT: Cars submerged in flood water after the heavy rain in Durban.
Pedestrians and traffic negotiate flooded streets in Pietermaritzburg during heavy rainfall yesterday.