Families of KZN storm victims pour their hearts out
Several lives were lost in the Easter weekend downpour that washed away homes across KwaZulu-Natal. DRUM speaks to those affected
DOZENS of people were asleep in the church building, staying over so they could attend all the services during the most important weekend on the Christian calendar. Then the rains came. Over the course of 24 hours the heavens dropped 165mm of water on Durban and the surrounding areas, causing floods and destruction of biblical proportions.
And instead of Easter being a time of reflection and celebration, it became one of horror and heartache.
In the Pentecostal Holiness Church near Ndlangubo in KwaZulu-Natal, 13 people lost their lives when a wall crumbled under the deluge, crushing the sleeping worshippers – and for one man who lost his daughter, the grief is unbearable.
Maqhawe Shadu (51) lost his wife to natural causes last year and was still coming to terms with his sorrow when he heard his beloved child was among the dead.
He last saw his daughter, Minenhle Mdluli (23), on 2 April when she went to visit him in Mpumalanga where he works.
Two weeks later she was gone. “I can’t sleep or eat,” he says. “I don’t know how to deal with this. I think I am losing my mind.”
Anger is compounding his sorrow. Maqhawe, who works in construction, believes the church building wasn’t sound.
“There is no enforcement to support the structure to enhance its strength and stability. I wouldn’t be surprised if cheap building materials were donated to the church.”
The father of four other children is trying his best to be strong for his family. “Black men aren’t supposed to cry,” he says. “But I am scared this will affect my health.”
A formal investigation is underway to determine if the 19-year-old building was structurally sound but Reverend Phiwayinkosi Sibiya of the Pentecostal Holiness Church says the building was strong.
“Proper procedures were followed when building it – it was the weather that did this.
“But we’re waiting for engineers to do
THE storm killed 85 people and caused havoc across swathes of the province. People watched their houses, cars and everything they owned being destroyed by the unrelenting force of nature. Michael Ntombela (51) of Savanna Park in Durban saw his neighbour’s house collapse.
“I heard a big bang coming from outside,” he recalls. “My neighbour’s house was gone and my four cars and my other neighbour’s taxi were floating in the muddy water.
“My biggest concern was to save my wife and kids. I didn’t care about anything else.”
Michael’s wife, Thandiwe (44), and their two kids, Sphesihle (2) and fourmonth-old Ndalenhle, were stuck inside their house.
“The water was going inside. I rushed back to try to rescue my wife who was crying hysterically for me to save her and the kids.”
Mud had blocked their exit – and as Michael tried to rescue his loved ones, he too became stuck in the mud.
‘My biggest concern was to save my wife and kids. I didn’t care about anything else’
FAR LEFT: The floods have left Maqhawe Shandu grieving, his child Minenhle Mdluli (INSET) died when a church collaped. LEFT and BELOW: Mphiwe Nxumalo blames the government for damage to his house in Savanna Park. He says they failed to put storm drains in the area.
(From previous page)
LEFT: The collapsed church in Ndlangubo. RIGHT: Michael Ntombela clears debris from his neighbour’s collapsed house. BELOW: Mandla Hlophe’s eight tenants have been left homeless and he has lost his only income as the rooms he rented out washed away during the storm.
their inspections and report back. If they say it’s not safe here, we’ll move.”