Horror scene at lightning strike

2010-11-28 14:32

Johannesburg - Some party goers, injured when lightning struck a marquee in Pongola, were still stuck to the plastic chairs they sat on when emergency services arrived seven hours later, KwaZulu-Natal social development MEC, Meshack Radebe said on Sunday.

"They were still in a sitting position on their chairs, the plastic had burned and hardened onto their body, they were stuck.

"The dead were burnt beyond recognition," Radebe told Sapa.

"Can you imagine if emergency services arrived sooner? I am sure that the two that died in hospital could have been saved... I mean, the bodies of the deceased were lying inside the marquee till 22:00."

He was referring to seven people who died in Pongola on Friday afternoon, when a marquee housing them and 71 others was struck by lightning during a Christmas party at a local creche. Forty of the 71 people were taken to hospital and eleven of them were discharged on Saturday.

The lightning strike killed five people instantly and two others died in hospital. Amongst the dead was a two-year-old girl.

Radebe criticised emergency service personnel saying "they took too long to arrive (at) the scene".

Emergency services arrived seven hours late

He said emergency services were apparently alerted at 14:00, shortly after the incident occurred, but only arrived seven hours later.

"The injured had to be transported to hospital by neighbours."

Radebe visited some of the victims in hospital on Saturday.

"Some of them described that the incident was as if a 'big stone hit us'.

"They said it was as if a big stone hit the people on the spot, that the bolt of lightening was about the size of a soccer ball, and then there was fire."

Some of the injured had large scars on their bodies, others sustained almost 60% burns, he said.

Establish a budget

Radebe said a report about the length of time it took emergency services to arrive would be presented to the provincial cabinet on Wednesday.

At the same time, he would also establish a budget for a mass funeral to take place for the victims some time next week.

This may be fully paid for by local government.

"We are going to assist these families, most of them are in poverty, there is no way of turning our backs."

Psychologists were dispatched to the area on Saturday.

They were also giving trauma counselling to 11 people who were discharged from Itshelejuba and Ngoma hospitals on Saturday evening.

Radebe said more of the injured were discharged on Sunday morning but he did not have the exact figures.

All need counselling

"All of these people need counselling."

Those who died were included Thobisile Buthelezi, 35, Thalitha Sukazi, 44, Thembhekile Mathonsi, 20, Nondumiso Khumalo, 24, Mrs Mathenjwa, 33, Mrs Nsthangase, 40 and the two-year-old.

SA Weather Services forecaster Mark Todd told Sapa on Saturday that a marquee or a tent was not a safe structure to be under when there was a lightning storm.

"The safest place to be is inside a solid structure or building with walls or a car with the windows rolled up," he said.

"When lightening strikes a house the electricity gets conducted around the frame of the house because it is earthed well, but a tent does not have solid walls and is not earthed well so if it is struck the electricity can go through the tent and hit people inside."

The KwaZulu-Natal health department could not immediately be reached for comment on Sunday.

  • Ozman - 2010-11-28 14:39

    And so the cover up begins.

      The man - 2010-11-28 15:26


      Mike - 2010-11-29 13:17

      @The Man - he means that the cover up will begin - let me explain - it took the emergency services 7 hours to get there - do you get the drift? - this is not ox-wagon era - it is 2010. This is the level that our "service delivery" has sunk to. Do you get it now? They will think up all excuses as to why it took them so long. The cover will begin - If you still don't get it then you should not be on a computer - you've missed your calling - you should be in government!!

  • Mmbogo - 2010-11-28 14:59

    Terrible! May the souls of the deceased rest in peace.

  • Kobus - 2010-11-28 15:36

    Shame on you, South Africa! You can present a soccer tournament....yet when tragedy strikes, those supposedly serving you disappear. It's like the government, appointing people with no clue in the name of BEE. Shame!

  • stefan.conradie - 2010-11-28 16:36

    Budget set aside for the burial? See how this "budget" will be inflated to fatten another ANC cadre... Its point blank... Sick and typical ANC policy

  • Why - 2010-11-28 18:07

    AQs far as I know, there are also specifications and safety issues when erecting a marquee tent. People should stop putting up things how and where they want without considering safety issues. If you don't know about these things as any firemen from the 80's.

  • venn.cannon - 2010-11-28 20:38

    I am shocked with the comments below.Why would people not understand the tragedy, these poor people, what started as a joyous event turned into a story of profound sadness. leave these poor people to mourn, let them come to terms with their lives withut their loved ones. Their reality lives on long after you have forgotten this story. I have read your comments, you shame us all.

      Jerome - 2010-11-28 21:41

      agreed Venn ...may their souls rest in peace

      Beverley - 2010-11-29 06:25

      Venn, i agree with you totally! @ Why - maybe it is because the structure was not put up by an authorised / accredited supplier and no structural certification was issued - that is when incidents like this happen, when any back door "cheap" money grubber does not consider people but their pockets!!

      Subzer0 - 2010-11-29 08:29

      Are you serious Beverly? How on earth would you want a non permanent structure to be have the capabilities of an earth wire to help route the "electricity" away.

      emmamimie - 2010-11-29 11:57

      No venn! people are angry with the prosedures in this country, we do understand these peoples pain, but it always seems that when a disaster strikes our majority people,it always seems unimportant and they are left to look after themselves. In the first place someone should have known the weather and that it was dangerous to have a tent put up in it. Was there not a building these people could have used for their ocassion. The authorities need to get involved and help when it comes to these ocassions in the rural areas.

  • Joe - 2010-11-29 04:12

    Well, what can I say. It's shocking, no pun intended. Just like the gruesome farm murders that doesn't seem to make the news anymore. So when the hand of God reigns down fire from heaven, even over innocents, should I feel sorry for them, or not? And when you judge me, consider the barbaric inhumane way that a LOT of innocent farmers are murdered in, tortured by the New South Africa's best.

      Susannomore - 2010-11-29 06:30

      So, we have to make this racist as well? Shame on you to use this as a platform for your bigotic notions.

      jacowium - 2010-11-29 07:07

      "So when the hand of God reigns down fire from heaven"...probably the saddest, most pathetic comment I've ever read on News24 - and that says quite a lot.

      pointblankza - 2010-11-29 09:39

      Oh Joe, now is not the time to try make a frigging race thing about this sad incident. What a chop.

      Paul - 2010-11-29 10:37

      Why MUST a reference to farm murders ALWAYS be considered a racist one?

      Paul - 2010-11-29 10:49

      Why MUST a reference to farm murders ALWAYS be seen by some blind people as a racist one? Go figure...

      green_goblin - 2010-11-29 12:54

      "So when the hand of God reigns down fire from heaven". I suppose it had nothing to do with that big metal pole in the centre of the marquee acting as a lightening conductor.... plank!

      Ares - 2010-11-29 14:50

      Whatever... I agree with Joe. After burying 8 family members on our farm due to attacks, I have no sympathy. They were also enjoying their lives until a "storm struck them down".

      pointblankza - 2010-11-29 15:59

      Ja like we feel anything for your family Ares. Boo hoo.

      Ares - 2010-11-29 16:33

      @pointblankza With people like you, you must be a lonely and sad soul, or with no soul at all.

  • Viv - 2010-11-29 08:12

    Awful story and very, very sad. May those who died rest in peace and those injured make speedy recoveries. Just wanted to know why the funerals would be paid for by the local government though? Does government suddenly pay for funerals now? This was an 'Act of God' as they say.

      emmamimie - 2010-11-29 11:59

      Viv, I think it is a lot of guilt on their part. Our people cannot understand that they are the last thoughts on the authorities minds.

  • MOTEK-XX - 2010-11-29 08:34

    Well is that not typical, we have wonderful ways devised to collect more money in the guyse of toll fees, taxes, sin taxes, but the money we spend to better our lives and well being within OUR society, is diverted for self enrichment, resulting in situations such as this. DISGRACEFUL!!!

  • Jan - 2010-11-29 09:08


      devils_advo - 2010-11-29 17:33


  • Bradup - 2010-11-29 09:57

    @subzer0 Have you never seen a lightning protector pole next to a thatch roof house ? Same will work next to a marquee

      emmamimie - 2010-11-29 12:00

      Brad you should tell that to the people who hire these tents out, people in these jobs are not so clued up.

      Thembisile - 2010-11-29 12:46

      I once told people I work with that it is suicidal to stand under the tree when there's a lightning, they laughed me off and said I mustn't think that this is rural areas because there apparently people use lightning to kill each other how I do not know (witchcraft) I know for sure when the bible says my people perish because of lack of knowldge. A lot of thigs happen because we do not bother to arm ourselves with knowldege, yesterday I saw a soccer match during thunder storms and people should know that when in that position just running around in the rain you become vulnerable to being hit by a lightning. Maybe South African Weather Bereau need to run an educational campaign about lightning and thunder storms so that people would have knowledge and hopefully there wont be any unneceesary lose of lives.

      mrsnicholson - 2010-11-29 14:04

      That's a good idea Thembisile. Reach out to schools too, get the kids interested in learning about lightning and how to behave during a thunderstorm.

  • mazwi.sthe - 2010-11-29 10:04


      Ares - 2010-11-29 14:52

      Yes, typical of a sangoma to do their new latin dancing moves on a day like that.

  • modmario - 2010-11-29 10:09

    It's sad very very sad I agree, but party party party!!!!! ELELELELELELEELELELLEELLEEL FREE PARTY!!! They were warned well in advance!!!! Now innocent lives have been lost, I feel for the victims I do, but the party organizers should be held accountable not the tax payers!!!! So typical of this country to spend money, throw parties, the marquee that went up in smoke and the rental of plastic chairs that melted the money could've been used better for the children, build another structure, buy better bedding.... UGH I guess if they can't have bread let them eat cake.... or toast PARTY PARTY PARTY WASTE MONEY YEAH WHOOO......Poor souls murdered for a PARTY...I call for justice the party organizers should be held accountable!!!!!

      Monde - 2010-11-29 12:35

      just listen to yourself, i mean really now, go back to the article and read it carefully there is something you missed. i do not see anything wrong with a party, you are making noise out of nothing!

  • Trin - 2010-11-29 10:14

    ja! shocking!

  • emmamimie - 2010-11-29 11:49

    So what do they care about their own people, this is a life long story in South Africa. To wait 7 hours for a so called 'Emergency" service is disgusting. They should have been there within minutes of the disaster.

  • Weasledna - 2010-11-29 12:07

    Some of you people are truly pathetic. People died here and all you can do is bitch and moan and warra warra . Ef sakes . Look left and come right . The reason Mr Radebe has decided to budget for the funerals , is because it was most deffinatley the fault of the government paid emergency services that some of these people died . Or did you all not read the article properly .

      Blah-blah - 2010-11-29 16:39

      Read the article, know the story. So, what you are saying... Not only do taxpayers pay the salaries of the delayed emergency services personnel, but we also get to pay for their mistakes - if it was a mistake - doubtful. Ok - whatever - the government cronies do as they please anyway and the people of SA just believe everything they dish out as the truth (no matter how half-baked). I hope the survivors find peace - at least they are receiving "free" counselling. Don't get me wrong - I'm happy that they, at least, are getting the after care they deserve. Maybe it should be available to all South Africans who survives a traumatic experience though? Do I sound greedy? Well, I am South African...

  • Vusi-buthelezi - 2010-11-29 15:01

    This happens in most of the times that South African emergency services never be on time. What can be a satisfactory explanation be for this negligence, even if the service was offered by the nearest province it would have never taken seven hours to reach the scene. If the emergency service is offered by the Govt Dept, the head of the department and the leaders of our province should have charged the service for gross negligence to the death of the two people who died in hospital. The two people experienced unprecendented pain due to lack of attention before they die. Is this the freedom we fought for? Are we still living in the 70s and the eighties where people were left in the streets to die because they were troublemakers and had no value to the apartheid govt? We have a ligitimate government, why our govt really no priority to its people? That's why people are gradually loosing their faith, because we only show interest to them only if we need voting power. I and many others expect to see the people who reverse our gains as people loosing thier job because they had obviously display no interest in their job.

      Monde - 2010-11-29 15:43

      The NHI is coming my friend, i would like to be positive about it, hope its implementation will be effective.

      Blah-blah - 2010-11-29 17:10

      @Monde - I agree with Vusi. The guys showed a total lack of respect and interest in the people they were called to serve. Furthermore, they dragged the reputation of their fellow EMS workers through the mud. I don't know about The Struggle entitling anybody to anything - clearly just the opposite is true. So Monde - if you think the NHI is going to be effective you are naive - our government do not give a bee's behind for their people and do not care to organise anything properly on their behalf - except if it is parties, cars and "working" holidays for themselves at the expense of taxpayers. Hopefully you too will wake up and smell the stench of empty promises and naked greed - let's hope sooner rather than later.

      Monde - 2010-11-30 11:02

      the truth of the matter is you need to look at the benefits that this would provide to people that cannot afford basic health services and not just concentrate on corruption. I will refrain from discussing corruption however i would like to see under privileged people getting a good health care service. Like i said i am positive about it, it just requires everyone to support it. I will not comment on the EMRS incident, i do not have the details of it and shall not speculate.

  • Elaine - 2010-11-29 16:42

    This is unacceptable!

  • Blah-blah - 2010-11-29 17:27

    This should never have happened, but it did... I'm glad the survivors are getting all of this support. And I pray for them, BUT... Yes, I have a dark side too - like the rest of you. So, I was wondering why it is that these poor people are suddenly receiving such care and attention - so very publicly? Other South Africans must deal with their traumas and losses on their own - children drowning while trying to cross swollen waterways to get home, robberies, rapes, government clinics doing more harm than good... The truamatised are dependent on support from friends and family (hopefully). There is a degree of inconsistency that is quite bothersome - at least some people are receiving some benefits. That is - if we can believe everything we read in this article about dispatched psychologists - blah, blah. Mr. Radebe lost interest by Sunday and is loudly blowing a brass trumpet for effect.

  • EvanInUSA - 2010-11-29 17:52

    People ask me why just I left. Well this is the reason. This is sad, very sad. People got hurt and it’s tragic. The fact is lives cannot be brought back. But the problems in South Africa made people cold inside. It took a few years for me in the USA again to be shocked when I heard people died tragically. It’s always sad. Yes we can blame and yes we can be angry. The fact is: This could potentially be avoided. By now we understand lighting. What is the government going to do to prevent this type of disaster from happening again? Nothing, they are not God. But what they can do is to put every measure in place to enforce safety regulations and to work on the response time of the emergency services. That is something that can be worked on. Taking a long time to help people in need is inexcusable and local government failed, period. I’m so sorry for those who lost loved ones and I pray in my heart those families or friends can find peace again.

  • diranp - 2010-11-30 09:06

    Some of you peoples comments are disgusting,with so much hatred in this country we'll never go forward

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