Storm blows in death and destruction

2010-11-07 08:45

Mogalakane Leutle’s life will never be the same again.

The 61-year-old unemployed ­father and his family of seven – ­including two visitors – were about to go to bed last Sunday night when torrents of water swept away his shack within a few minutes. A visitor, Mma Makamane (59), was killed ­instantly.

The water flooded the shack and swept it down the river as if it was a boat – trapping its six occupants inside.

Leutle, his wife, Mmakanyane (61), their children – Tebogo (13), Thabang (10) and Rebotile (9) – as well as Makamane’s child, Lofta, were helpless.

The shack hit a tree about 100m away, turned upside down and everybody was flung out into the water.

Mmakanyane, Lotfa and Tebogo were trapped by the debris of fallen trees and fences which saved them from being swept further down the stream.

They survived.

However, with his hands wrapped around a trunk, Leutle was forced to watch helplessly as his two youngest children screamed as they were swept away.

“I just heard my daughter (Rebotile) screaming once and saying, ‘Aaahhh’, I knew she was dead. ­After the rain subsided, I ran to the headman’s house to report the tragedy,” said Leutle

“I then woke up at 5am and searched for Thabang’s body. I found it in the ploughing fields next to Maseleseleng.”

Mark Todd, spokesperson for the SA Weather Services, said the freak storms which wreaked havoc in Limpopo, parts of the Free State, the wild coast area, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Gauteng had been ­expected.

He said the thunderstorms in early summer were generally more severe than those later in the summer in terms of hail and damaging winds. “So, it is fairly typical to get severe thunderstorms that produce large hail and damaging winds at this time of the year,” Todd said.

On Monday morning, a day after the tragedy, about 400 ­villagers, municipal officials and police ­officers embarked on a gruelling search mission for ­Rebotile’s body. Armed with spades and wooden sticks, they combed through the bushes and streams within a 6km ­radius of her family house.

The desperate search ended on Tuesday morning when Rebotile’s naked body was found buried in the sand on Maseleseleng headman Ramphelane Kgaphola’s ploughing fields, 4km away from Marulaneng.

“It was a difficult mission. We had to cut trees, get inside the stream to dig out sand and scoop out the water and mud as part of the search,” said Emma Moloko.

Kgaphola, who used his tractor to rescue eight of the 15 cars trapped in his village alone, said he had never before experienced such floods.
“There were trees within a 100m radius on both sides of the stream in my fields, but they are all gone.”

Storms have ravaged ­Limpopo since last week, ­killing at least six people and causing more than R28 million damage to schools alone. ­Authorities said at least 111 ­mobile classrooms were ­urgently needed.

One family, the Thobejanes, lost an entire herd of 28 goats.

“It means hunger for us ­because we are unemployed.

“We sold the goats when there was a need and used the money to buy food,” said Lekgala Thobejane.

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