KZN shrugs off storm

2012-03-05 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL had its ducks in a row this weekend.

Local authorities remained on heavy weather alert, but by yesterday Cyclone Irina had been downgraded to a moderate tropical storm, according to the South African Weather Service.

Disaster nonetheless struck in the north of the province where four men are feared drowned, while Phumaphi Makhaye’s home, in Jozini, collapsed on top of her.

Her stepson Meshack Sithole said the family feared the worst when they pulled her from the rubble.

“She was in terrible pain,” he said.

“When we pulled her out she could no longer move the lower part of her body. We had to use a wheelbarrow to carry her away from the scene because she could no longer walk.”

Makhaye (56) was admitted to hospital in a serious condition. She had been sleeping with her three children in her mud and concrete brick rondavel. One child suffered minor injuries.

Vernon Mchunu, a spokesperson for the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) department, said divers spent yesterday searching for the bodies of four missing men.

One had tried to cross the Wela River at Nhlwathi, near Hlabisa. The others had attempted to ford the Enkovukeni River at Shikishela, near Mtubatuba.

Mchunu added that people had been evacuated from the northern, coastal district municipalities of uMkhanyakude and uThungulu, but there were no major incidents.

Twenty-seven households had been partially damaged and four totally damaged. More than 150 people were affected.

“We were prepared for the worst and our readiness has been a major reason why there have been no major incidents,” he said.

“We have eight military helicopters on stand-by.”

Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube said disaster teams had been working in shifts to patrol flood-prone areas and assist people whose homes had been flooded.

“Key to us at this moment is to move people to community halls where they will have a solid structure around them.”

In Pietermaritzburg and elsewhere in the Midlands there were heavy rains, but no reports of flooding.

However, in Durban, streets flooded and eThekwini municipal officials evacuated beaches.

“Marine Parade and Playfair Road were closed due to flooding, but were reopened by 3 pm yesterday,” said municipal spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng.

Out to sea, the KwaZulu-Natal Shark Board removed drumlines and nets ahead of the storm, reducing shark prevention to a bare minimum off some beaches.

“We had been monitoring the situation over the past week and removed the prevention methods on Thursday,” said operations manager Mike Anderson-Reade.

“If all goes well they will be back in the water by Thursday.

“Swimming has been banned on all beaches where there are no prevention methods.”

The South Coast saw high ocean swells off beaches empty of people.

Spokesperson for the Hibiscus Coast Municipality Simon Soboyisa confirmed that its was ready for any cyclone threat as did sources from the Umdoni Municipality.

Scottburgh resident Clarissa Moodley waited in anticipation for more dramatic weather.

“When the rain started on Saturday night we were wondering if this was the start [of the cyclone], but all we had was rain.”

“There were no howling winds or six-metre seas or anything like that.”

“People in Scottburgh were standing on their balconies and looking out to sea, but there was nothing very exciting.”

Meanwhile, by late yesterday afternoon, police and disaster services said Irina remained a threat to the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

The weather system was likely to remain over open water between Maputo and Richards Bay for the next 24 hours, according to the National Joint Operational Centre.

“A combination of very rough seas, marine storm surge, as well as gale-force winds are likely to threaten” the coastline during this time, said police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo.

However, the likelihood of further heavy rain was diminishing, he said.

The hippos are happy: Irina breaks the 10-year drought at iSimangaliso Wetland Park — page 2

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