Trail of devastation: storm death toll rises

The storm accompanied by strong winds left a trail of destruction in oThongathi, north of Durban. Photo: Willem Phungula

The storm accompanied by strong winds left a trail of destruction in oThongathi, north of Durban. Photo: Willem Phungula

Published Jun 5, 2024


Durban — KwaZulu-Natal has suffered another deadly disaster following the heavy rains accompanied by strong winds that left seven people dead and a trail of destruction in oThongathi, north of Durban, on Monday afternoon.

The province, particularly Durban, has not yet fully recovered from the devastating storm disaster that left close to 500 people dead and massive infrastructure damage.

Speaking to the Daily News team that visited the area on Tuesday, survivors described the storm as scary and terrible, saying they heard a big bang and suddenly saw houses’ roofs flying over.

The areas that were severely affected included Sandfield and Magwaveni, where most of the deaths occurred.

From the air, the scope of the devastation becomes clearer. | Supplied

Tasha Naidoo, whose brother’s house was flattened by the storm coupled with heavy rains, said her brother was lucky not to be home when disaster struck.

She said she was not at home either and as a result, the family lost everything in the house.

She pointed to another collapsed structure, which she said was an outbuilding where their tenant was seriously injured as she could not escape. The tenant was still in hospital with serious injuries, she said.

“We are left with nothing. We even lost clothes and essential documents. We are left literally with what we are wearing. The storm was horrific,” said Naidoo.

Residents said the storm came from the north side of town, ripping houses’ roofs apart while moving southwards.

eThekwini councillor Yogis Govender, who is also from the area, said it was the first strong storm she had ever experienced in her life.

She turned to the government, saying that apart from issuing warnings to the people, the government had no massive evacuation plan which could save lives. She also blamed the disaster teams for reaching the area late after people had cried without help forthcoming.

Govender is a DA councillor in eThekwini and was accompanied by the party’s provincial leader, Francois Rodgers, who also questioned the government’s evacuation plan, saying warning people was not enough.

Residents gingerly pick their way through the debris of their houses after they were destroyed by the storm that tore through the eMagwaveni Township in Tongaat. | Doctor Ngcobo Independent Newspapers

The event also prompted a massive response by the provincial government, eThekwini Municipality, and opposition parties, which included the DA, uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MKP), and ActionSA.

MKP eThekwini regional leader Bongani Khoza said the party decided to visit the area since it had received the most votes in KZN in the elections. He said although the party was not yet part of the government, it would try its best to ensure the affected communities get the assistance they need.

Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, who came with several MECs, said the government was already on the ground assisting people as she had brought department MECs and teams to fast-track help.

She defended her government’s failure to evacuate people before the disaster, saying the government had evacuated people from low-lying areas before. Dube-Ncube added that in this particular incident, the weather warning did not mention that it would bring such severity except for warning about localised flooding, which did not require massive evacuation.

Briefing the media later, the premier said 57 people had been injured. Most were treated and discharged from the hospital except for 14 still receiving treatment. She also announced seven people had died and sent condolences to all the families of the victims.

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, who was also part of the government’s team that visited the area, said the displaced people would not have to build temporary shelters since the plan to build houses had already been approved.

KZN, because of its coastal nature, appears vulnerable to climatic disasters. This is the second disaster in two years. It was also hit in 2017.

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