Killer storm pounds PMB

2009-01-04 00:00

AT least seven deaths, uprooted trees and scores of damaged properties — this was the legacy of Saturday’s hour-long storm, which caused havoc in Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas.

Yesterday morning, Welfare MEC Meshack Hadebe confirmed seven deaths and many more injures in the province as a result of the storm.

“Most of the deaths that we have heard of were caused by roofs falling in due to the storm,” he said.

“We’ve confirmed that 13 were left injured in Kwa-Themba.”

Hadebe said over 2 000 households were affected by the storm.

One man apparently drowned in the city after he fell into an uncovered storm water drain at Copesville on Saturday night. Police Inspector Jack Haskins said the man was walking with his son in Copesville Drive when he allegedly fell into the open hole.

Haskins said the man’s son ran home to the nearby informal settlement, but that help was only summoned yesterday morning, when police recovered the man’s body.

Police said the circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated and that an inquest into the death will be held.

Acting municipal manager Roy Bridgmohan said Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo expressed her shock at the incident and sent her condolences to the man’s family, whose roof was also blown off during the storm.

“We are trying to help them with food parcels.”

Bridgmohan said the municipality will be conducting an investigation into the incident. “We’ve had reports that people are stealing the covers for scrap metal and that one person is even using them to build a driveway at his house.”

Bridgmohan said Premier S’bu Ndebele, councillors and the mayor went on a tour of the city yesterday assessing the damage.

“It’s been terrible.” He said the municipality is distributing plastic sheeting and tarpaulins to help people keep their belongings dry until they can repair the damages. Others in informal settlements who lost their homes are receiving food parcels and tents, he said.

He added that numerous people were injured by flying roof sheeting and debris.

Linda Walden, controller at the fire department, said emergency services were working around the clock to sort out the damage caused by the storm. “The roads department and fire department have been working flat out to clear up — it’s just a matter of time to sort this all out.”

John Gutridge of Msunduzi disaster management said 17 wards reported major damage.

“It was mostly damage caused by wind, which was accompanied by heavy rain. There are trees down across the city.”

He said heavy winds blew trees down over power lines and that the electricity department’s first priority was to make the area safe after lines were still sparking dangerously.

“Once they have switched off everything, they will start repairing the damage,” said Gutridge.

At the time of going to print, no clear assessment of damage could be made.

Gutridge said a woman was injured in Woodlands when she was struck by a piece of flying roof sheeting and taken to hospital and that the worst affected wards included Copesville and the Sweetwaters area.

“There were many houses that collapsed and roofs that were blown off houses in these areas.”

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