KZN STORM HAVOC

Sev­eral killed as high winds and flood wa­ters lash Dur­ban

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - NOKUTHULA KHANYILE, KAILENE PIL­LAY and KERUSHUN PIL­LAY

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. • newsed@wit­ness.co.za

PHOTO: FACEBOOK

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.

PHOTOS: FACEBOOK/RES­CUE CARE/SUP­PLIED

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.

PHOTO: IAN CARBUTT

Pedes­tri­ans and traffic ne­go­ti­ate flooded streets in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg dur­ing heavy rain­fall yes­ter­day.

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