Storm ‘casualties’ found alive

2012-03-06 00:00

THREE of the four people feared drowned in Northern KwaZulu-Natal because of this weekend’s tropical storm, are very much alive, authorities said yesterday.

One person, however, remains missing.

Dumisani Mthenjwa, an official with the uMkhanyakude District Disaster Management Centre in Mkuze said a helicopter was requested to assist in the search for the man.

But rescue officials yesterday breathed a sigh of relief confirming that there was less damage than expected, after initial warnings that Cyclone Irina would wreak havoc in KwaZulu-Natal.

Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said that although Irina was intense, the damage was not as excessive as previously thought.

Over the weekend it was downgraded from a cyclone to a moderate tropical storm before heading back into the Indian Ocean.

“We thought that the storm would move more inland, and if it had done so, the damage would have been worse,” he said.

Weather forecaster with the South African Weather Service Stacy Colbourne said KZN could still expect gale force winds and high swells until tomorrow morning as Irina moved further out to sea.

“Swells of between four to five metres in Durban and six metres up the North Coast are being caused by the tropical storm,” she said.

Colbourne added that a cold front was making its way towards KZN, which would be a buffer against Irina, but would bring its own strong winds and rain. “But nothing like what Irina offered,” she said.

However, once the cold front left, Irina could return, possibly on Saturday, the Weather Service said.

In its reaction, Cogta said disaster centres would remain on high alert.

Off the beaches yesterday, reduced shark prevention remained in place, after the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board removed drumlines and nets ahead of the storm.

Operations manager Mike Anderson-Reade expected that they wouldn’t be put back until the sea settled down tomorrow or Thursday.

In the uThungulu District, mayor Thembeka Mchunu said over 50 homesteads in townships and rural areas were damaged by the strong winds and a continuous downpour.

People affected were evacuated from flooded areas, housed in community halls and given blankets and mattresses.

The Red Cross had assisted with soup kitchens at some shelters.

More than 170 people from 46 homes were affected by flooding in the iLembe District Municipality, which has requested additional relief material, bearing in mind that winter is around the corner.

The volume of storm water also resulted in damage to a bridge, low level river crossings and some road works around KwaDukuza (formerly Stanger).

Zee Nqala, the district’s spokesperson, added that a few houses with poor structures were added to the provincial beneficiary list, to be submitted to the Department of Human Settlements.

Jozini resident Phumaphi Makhaye (56), who broke both legs when her home collapsed on her early on Sunday, has been transferred to Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, which would not comment on her condition.

Meanwhile, the provincial Disaster Management Centre has released a new set of emergency numbers for various district municipalities.

This, after the Zululand Fever newspaper found that the emergency numbers of the uThukela, Amajuba, uMkhanyakude and Zululand districts didn’t work or were never answered.

Yesterday, the Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal criticised the provincial department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) for publishing wrong emergency numbers.

“According to the report, four of the 11 numbers allocated to district disaster lines were wrong,” said DA Cogta Spokesperson George Mari.

“All four numbers are within the northern KwaZulu-Natal area. In one instance an operator is alleged to have asked what a cyclone was,” he said.

“The claims are extremely worrying and raise questions around the administrative capacity of the province’s department.”

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