STORMS OF WRATH

2008-11-13 00:00

“SPINNING” winds accompanied by driving rain wreaked havoc in the Pietermaritzburg area on Wednesday evening, uprooting trees, causing damage to residential and business properties and badly injuring a woman, whose leg was cut off by a metal roof sheet.

Estimates by the Msunduzi Municipality indicate that over 1 000 people were displaced and hundreds of homes damaged.

The winds also resulted in damage to a lion enclosure at the Lion Park in Camperdown, resulting in 12 lions making a dash for freedom. Ten were immediately recaptured, but two females remained on the loose late yesterday.

Last night’s heavy downpours caused difficult driving conditions, but no damage or accidents were reported by the time of going to press.

The municipality’s disaster unit teams were dispatched to the worst- affected areas to render assistance after Wednesday’s havoc.

“Our disaster unit distributed relief early today. Plastic roofing, mattresses and food parcels were distributed to the victims by late afternoon yesterday,” said municipal manager Rob Haswell.

By the afternoon, the city’s Disaster Management Unit had assessed 240 houses that had been damaged.

Head of the unit John Gutridge said they expected the number of damaged houses to rise to 300, while the number of displaced people was expected to reach the 1 400 mark.

Haswell said most of the houses damaged were in Sobantu, Ashdown, upper Sweetwaters, the Jika Joe informal settlement and in some parts of Greater Edendale.

The strong winds that accompanied the storm uprooted trees and blew down power cables and poles, leaving a number of houses without electricity.

Some of the other hard-hit suburbs were Ashburton, Cleland, Lincoln Meade, Mkondeni, Scottsville and Hayfields.

A massive mop-up operation began yesterday.

Msunduzi parks and recreation director Steven Naick told The Witness that by late yesterday about a quarter of the debris had been cleared, adding that his department was working hard to clear the rest.

Kwenza Khumalo, the spokesman for the council’s traffic department, said a number of traffic lights were affected by the storm, but there were no reports of road accidents.

Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo and members of the executive committee visited some of the affected households in Greater Edendale.

The tour included a visit to the home of Tini Soni of Dambula near Caluza. Her leg was reportedly cut off by a metal roof sheet that blew off another house while she was running home during the storm.

“We were told that her leg was completely cut off and the other one badly damaged,” said Hlatshwayo. She said Exco had not received reports of fatalities by yesterday afternoon.

Edendale Hospital spokeswoman Samke Mncub confirmed that Soni was in the hospital’s intensive care unit in a stable condition, but would neither confirm nor deny reports that Soni’s leg was cut off.

Commenting during the visit, Hlatshwayo said the damage was greater than the committee had expected.

She said the visits were to assess the extent of the damage so the municipality can compile a report to Local Government MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, seeking further assistance in disaster relief.

The MEC’s spokesman, Lennox Mabaso, issued a warning for KZN residents to be on high alert, saying there were indications that “the inclement weather is not about to recede anytime” soon.

A collection of photos of the carnage caused by yesterday's freak storm.

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