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

DRUM - - CONTENTS - BY KHOSI BIYELA PIC­TURES: SHARON SERETLO

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.”

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