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.”

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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