Death and ruin in wind’s wake

2014-02-26 00:00

MONDAY night’s storm claimed the life of a 21-year-old woman who had come to Pietermaritzburg to look for a job to better the lives of her family.

Petronella Thandeka Ngqulunga, from Impendle, was staying in a rented room in the Slangspruit area.

Nombulelo Zimbomvu, who also rented a room in the same premises as Ngqulunga, said one of her friends had told him that they had been talking on the phone when they were cut off.

“Thandeka was explaining to him that it was raining heavily in Pietermaritzburg with [strong] wind.”

Zimbomvu told The Witness they ran out as the roof of her room fell down in front of their room.

“At first I thought it was our room’s roof that had blown off and fallen at the front door. We rushed out and hid against the walls of the house. While there we noticed that even that wall was shaking because of the speed of the wind.

“We ran to the church next door where we waited until the storm passed,” said Zimbomvu.

She said those staying on the premises renting rooms there, are all from different parts of the province. “We work in the factories in Mkondeni, we come home late and we don’t see each other frequently.”

She added that Ngqulunga’s friend who came to the house helped them because they did not know she had been in the room when the storm struck.

“He started removing some zinc sheeting from the roof that had fallen inside the room and found her body under the mud walls of the house. We were all shocked by this and started calling her family.”

Family member Bongiwe Khumalo told The Witness that they don’t know what really happened. “She was in Pietermaritzburg to get a job as she had no parents.

“She dropped out last year in Grade 11 when she saw her family situation and did her security certificate, which she passed. She wanted to help her family of 10 siblings.

“She was a down-to-earth child who loved her family,” said Khumalo. She added that they have lost someone who was looking forward to bettering her family.

Ward councillor Bongani Dlomo said more than 350 houses were affected in her ward, roofs were blown off and 15 people were injured.

“We are still trying to check the damage and find ways to help the community.

“In the meantime, some people are re-roofing their homes and others will be homed by friends and families. The most affected homes are the mud houses.”

Ten minutes was all it took for ferocious storm to cause endless devastation

TEN minutes was all it took for suburbs, townships and farms on the south side of Pietermaritzburg to be devastated.

Yesterday, The Witness visited Imbali township and Oribi village, where debris from trees that were broken during the strong storm littered the roads and yards. Tree-felling contractors were hard at work removing trees that blocked the roads and those that had fallen in people’s yards.

The last time a storm of a similar magnitude struck the city was in January 2013, when similar cases were reported.

It was a frightening experience for most people who experienced the storm.

Lungile Masango, who lived at er 1707 Ndaba Road in Unit 3, Imbali, said, “I was on the street when it suddenly got dark and I rushed to my bedroom.”

She said just after 4 pm, the thunder began with lightning and heavy rain. “The next thing we saw was water flooding into the house and I realised that the roof covering the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom had been blown off,” she said.

Masango said in a couple of minutes it was over, so she gathered her neighbours together to help put a tarpaulin over the roof to prevent more rain from pouring in.

“During the storm we sat in complete darkness as the electricity was also off at the time. We still don’t have electricity because our meter box was soaking wet and we need Eskom to check it before we can switch it back on,” she said.

Masango said she was terrified at what would happen to them when it turned pitch dark during broad daylight.

She said they are now waiting for disaster management to help them.

Across the street, Masango’s neighbour Dolly Thusi’s tiles flew off, leaving her house ruined by the rain.

“My neighbour’s zinc roof flew into my yard. I was so scared because I had never experienced such a terrifying incident, but always see it on TV,” she said.

Thusi said she was alone in the house with her seven-year-old grandson. “My grandson was so happy when knee-deep water came into the house. He said, ‘It is nice granny, because we now have a pool in our house’,” she said.

There were men on the roof already replacing the tiles that had been damaged.

“We have had to buy some building materials so that we can have a proper home again,” she said.

Nthaby Gwamanda from Unit 13 said the 10-minute drive from Southgate Spar to the France area felt like an hour because of the scary hail storm. “Little did I know that they were just as affected at home at Unit 13. I came home to see that virtually everything was destroyed and we now have to buy completely new furniture,” she said.

Gwamanda said DVDs, printers, wardrobes and other electronic appliances were covered in mud.

“When we finally opened the main door it was like opening a flood gate,” she said.

Family members and friends at the Gwamanda household were mopping up as some helped to remove the debris from a brick wall that collapsed, narrowly missing the house but only damaging the back door.

Some were even using hosepipes to clean electronic equipment like DVD players, printers and washing machines, which were covered in mud. “It was a complete mess that I could not just leave covered with mud and I have to wash these appliances. I don’t know if they will ever work again, but I will open them to dry up,” said a man who did not want to be named.

Some roads in Imbali were still closed by fallen trees.

— Witness Reporter.

Mayor conveys sympathies

MSUNDUZI Municipality Mayor Chris Ndlela expressed sympathy to those who suffered as a result of the storm and to the family of the woman who died in Slangspruit.

He said there had been severe damage to properties in all affected areas and inconvenience because of road closures and power outages, and added the municipality was doing all it could to restore the situation to normal.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said there were many areas that were affected by the storm. “Our disaster management team was called out to provide blankets and food parcels in some cases, like in Ward 18.”

He said the Pietermaritzburg Airport was also affected — billboards, the hangars and the roof of the aero club were all damaged. “In the main terminal at the arrivals and departures, it was flooded and the roof was damaged. However, fights are running as normal.” He said the entire extent of the damage throughout the municipality was not yet known.

Classrooms flooded

AT Bisley Park Primary three classrooms were reported to have been affected as water came through the roof and pupils had to help clean up the mess. An advertising sponsorship board in the school yard was brought down by heavy winds and hockey goal posts were left lying on the ground along with trees that had been uprooted.

Pelham Primary School also had to remove a tree that had fallen near the school’s entrance.

Oribi Villagers without power

THE Oribi Villagers had no electricity yesterday and were hard at work on their roofs removing tree branches that had fallen on them.

They did not know when they would get their power back because a tree had fallen on electricity cables causing power outages.

Shanon Muhammad from Oribi said the water was knee-deep and everything they had was completely destroyed. She said she did not know how she was going to recover from the disaster because she only made enough wages to pay her rent and buy food. “I don’t know what I am going to do now because even my groceries were destroyed by the storm,” she said. Muhammad said it was difficult to survive because she lived with her unemployed husband whose disability grant fund was cut off about four years ago.

Foxhill home badly affected

A FARMER’S home in Foxhill was also affected by the flash storm.

They sustained damage to the carport, tiles, asbestos roof, windows and an electric gate. “There’s no electricity as a tree fell over the lines and blocked the roads. We have never seen wind like this before; it was like a tornado. We have never had storms like this; it was horrific and frightening,” said the farmer, who did not want to be named. She added that they worked late on Monday removing trees from the roads. “It was really frightening,” she said.

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