Disaster: another killer storm

2008-11-30 00:00

ANOTHER freak storm devastated a KwaZulu-Natal settlement at the weekend, leaving six people, including a nine-month-old infant, dead and more than 50 injured.

The infant’s older sister, Aphiwe Gcwabaza (4), is fighting for her life in intensive care.

The second killer storm to hit the province in one month struck the Amanzimtoti, kwaMakhutha and Umbumbulu areas south of Durban on Saturday evening, displacing about 400 families.

The nine-month-old, Philasande Gcwabaza, died when a wall collapsed into the house where he was with parents and little Aphiwe. Falling bricks also hit Aphiwe, severely injuringh her.

The father of the two children, Sipho Gcwabaza (31) said the disaster struck at about 5.45 pm on Saturday, and for him it meant several blows.

“The wall fell on top of us. We tried to shield Philasande from the bricks, but I think his young and weak neck might have snapped in the process. My daughter was hit by the falling bricks; fortunately she was not trapped underneath.

“It was a huge storm, it swept through the area in less than three minutes, and in that period most houses were blown down.” The family live in Ezimangweni, near Amanzimtoti.

Gcwabaza said his daughter was admitted to hospital shortly after the incident. He said his family have returned to their damaged house and replaced part of the roof.

“We have tried to put the remaining sheets above our heads to have some shelter for now.”

Gcwabaza said his belongings were damaged and others were lost. “We have no electricity, but that is the least of our worries now,” he said.

Emergency relief teams were busy assisting residents mopping up the damage yesterday. Local government spokesman Lennox Mabaso said the latest disaster happened too soon after the previous one in Molweni near Hillcrest on November 14. “We have lost more lives at a time when we had not recovered from the Molweni disaster.”

Mabaso said the recurring freak storms should serve as a wake-up call that “all of us should do everything we can to address the situation of climate change”.

He said provincial and eThekwini municipal disaster teams are assisting the affected people with provision of temporary shelter, medical supplies, food and blankets.

Local government MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu and the office of the premier, S’bu Ndebele, have expressed sympathy with the people in the affected areas. Social Development MEC Meshack Radebe said his department will assist the families of the deceased.

“It is a painful situation, similar to the Molweni disaster … The department will assist the families of the six deceased with the burial of their loved ones.”

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