More tragedy at Molweni

2008-12-05 00:00

Twenty-one days after a tornado struck Molweni, killing eight people, the tragedies continue — a pregnant woman thrown up against a wall during the storm miscarried yesterday, while a man could lose his remaining leg. The first was amputated after the tragedy.

Brian Jones, managing director of SA Can, which was mandated by Durban Metro Disaster Management to co-ordinate victim relief, said yesterday that Red Cross kitchens are still feeding more than 1 000 people.

“We have 30 volunteers on the ground,” he said, adding that private psychologists volunteered to provide counselling, while gel stoves are being distributed so that people now living in tents could become self-sufficient. However, it will take three months for houses to be rebuilt.

Jones said 11 000 people in the SA Can network donated R1 million worth of goods.

More than 400 people volunteered and SA Can had to turn away many more. This week, R250 000 worth of food and clothing was donated to the community at kwaMakhuta, which was hit by a similar flash storm on November 29.

However, Jones and SA Can volunteers found that negative comments and rumours — which escalated to stories that a volunteer had been murdered — threatened to derail disaster management.

He said they were swamped by calls after rumours that supplies were not reaching victims, that crime was rife, that food was being discarded and that politicians were forcing residents to sign voter cards in return for food.

In reality, isolated incidents were dealt with immediately — three ANC Youth League members who were electioneering were stopped, and the Health Department intervened after a health scare.

Jones said that after a small bowl containing rotten food was found, a large pot of good food worth around R3 000 was discarded, horrifying volunteers.

He closed the warehouse used to store donations briefly for an inspection and, out of 34 tons of food, just a single litre of milk and a few oranges were discarded. Overall, out of about 42 500 plates of food distributed, just 300 were lost.

Jones said it is short-sighted to believe that a rescue effort of this scale will be problem-free.

Victims have complained they hadn’t received help, but when their tents were visited, volunteers found clothing and food. Such complaints were miniscule compared to what has been achieved, said Jones.

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