Man killed in freak storm

2008-03-12 00:00

One person was killed and hundreds of families were displaced during a freak storm that lashed Durban and surrounding areas on Tuesday.

Merebank, Yellowwood Park, Wentworth, Chatsworth, Pinetown, Amanzimtoti and Durban North were some of the areas affected by the storm, described as the worst in 20 years.

Emergency services worked throughout the night evacuating people from their flooded homes and helping motorists stuck in mudslides on the N2 near Amanzimtoti.

Police Search and Rescue teams rescued 20 people from the Island Hotel in Isipingo after rising water trapped them.

Some vehicles on the N2 were submerged in thick, red mud, which flowed from steep banks on to the highway. Many motorists pulled over or parked under bridges when driving became impossible. Traffic police closed the Joyner off-ramp near Amanzimtoti after a truck got stuck in the mudslide.

Departments of the Prince Mshiyeni hospital at Umlazi were also flooded and patients were housed at a shelter.

Several train lines were affected by the rain. Services are back to normal lengthy delays.

Yesterday, a massive mop-up operation got under way in Merebank, where retaining walls collapsed due to the water pressure.

An elderly couple narrowly escaped being crushed to death when a concrete wall caved in on their granny flat. Their landlord, Akash Bramdeo, said the couple were rescued seconds before the wall collapsed.

"The rain just pelted down, and then this flood of water swept into my yard. I rushed to see if my tenants were okay and saw the wall about to collapse on to their cottage," he said.

Bramdeo said it was difficult to save all their belongings because of the force of the water. "We have lost everything. It’s going to be difficult to start again. This is the worst flood I have ever seen," he said.

ER24 spokesman Derrick Banks said a man was killed in Merebank when he was struck by lightning.

"We had many call-outs, but we couldn’t assist anyone due to the bad weather. Transfers were impossible during the storm," he said.

Fire Department divisional commander Owen Singh said firemen rescued motorists trapped in mudslides and helped residents in informal settlements.

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