Burst pipe kills 2 kids after delay to repairs

2009-07-27 00:00

TWO siblings, a three-year old girl and an eight-month-old boy, were killed when an Umgeni Water pipe burst near their home in lower Molweni near Waterfall outside Durban on Friday.

Nokwazi and Mhlengi Hlongwane died when water from the pipe engulfed them and washed the house away.

According to the Sunday Tribune, the Hlongwanes said the death of their children could have been avoided because earlier on Friday they had noticed water gushing from the pipe and reported the matter to Umgeni Water.

The utility sent a technician who allegedly told them the problem was minor and would be fixed the following day.

At around 7 pm, the family heard an explosion and in a moment the house and the children were washed away.

Inspector Sibusiso Sithole said 15 other houses were affected. “The pipe joints were leaking. Nokwazi was found later hanging on the rocks at the river by the residents and Mhlengi died at the clinic due to head injuries,” he said.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, Shami Harichunder, the corporate stakeholder manager at Umgeni Water, said the company deeply regrets the incident and is saddened by the loss of two lives.

“Umgeni will be working closely with the community and will make arrangements for a funaral on Saturday. We will provide assistance in every way we can so that this family, which has lost everything, can rebuilt their lives again,” said Harichunder.

Explaining how such an accident could have occurred, he said pipe bursts result from contractions and expansions in pipes.

In this instance, he said, the pipe that carries huge volumes of raw water from Nagle Dam to the Durban Height Reservoir Hills contracted, causing a leak.

“As soon we were alerted to the leaking pipe, our team was sent out and they managed to seal the pipe and stabilise the situation.”

He said the pressure of the water in the pipes is so strong that it can cause huge damage within a short space of time, which is why Umgeni technicians monitor and conduct walks along their pipeline routes.

Harichunder said the crew has been on site since Friday working to remove the damaged pipe.

Water to the damaged pipe has been cut off and maintenance is expected to be concluded in the next two or three days.

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