Teen’s flash flood horror

2013-02-13 00:00

HELPLESS to act, a Msinga teenager watched in terror as three of his relatives were swept away by raging floodwaters after a storm struck the area on Monday night.

Police divers found the body of one of them yesterday, while the other two are missing and presumed to have drowned.

Recounting the night’s horror, Melusi Gwala (19) said he was alone in a room at the family homestead at about 6 pm when it began raining heavily.

“I heard people screaming that we must run away as water was coming in. I looked out of the window and saw water coming like a wave towards the house.”

Unknown to Gwala, the nearby Isibumba River had burst its banks and flooded the area.

Thinking quickly, he climbed on to the roof, from where he had a bird’s eye view of the destruction wrought by the torrent of water descending on the area.

“I could see the water washing away the houses, including the one I was in,” he said.

Then came a sight which left him cold: his aunt, Dudu Dlamini (36), and cousins Siya (21) and Amanda Dlamini (12) were being washed away.

“I was standing helplessly on the roof and saw my cousin being washed away. I couldn’t help him.

“A few minutes later the house that I was standing on also fell …”

Gwala was swept on to some rocks, but managed to save himself.

“I managed to hold on to a wire fence,” he said between sobs.

Also clinging to the fence for dear life was another cousin, Fezeka (9), whom Gwala helped to survive.

Local councillor Zakhele Sithole, whose house was also damaged, said he used one of his cars to escape from the floodwaters.

“Luckily, no one was at home at the time because my wife had visited her parents with our kids.

“I used the car to race to the main road,” said Sithole.

He said the storm lasted about two hours. A similar storm last year had left three people dead and two were still missing, he added.

Another local resident, Victor Mchunu, yesterday ordered a builder to demolish what was left of his storm-damaged house.

“I am moving away from this place because this seems to be happening every year. I had just finished building my house, but I have no choice: I will have to find a new place where it will be safe for my family,” he said.

Mchunu said a teacher from a local school, whose cottage was washed away in the storm, was also missing.

The provincial Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Department said six people were missing, 36 were displaced and about 100 were affected.

Twenty-five homes had been destroyed.

The bridge on the R33 that connects Msinga to Tugela Ferry was severely damaged.

Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube visited the area yesterday and reported that affected people were being housed in a community hall.

Dube said she had spoken to traditional leaders about identifying appropriate land, away from the floodplain, on which people could build homes.

Affected people were being helped to rebuild their lives, she said.

Department spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said two bodies were found yesterday.

A relative of Melusi Gwala said one of them had been identified as the missing cousin, Siya Dlamini.

Jack Haskins, of the police search and rescue unit, said the search for the missing people would resume when the water level subsided.

At Newcastle, two people were struck by lightning and killed on Monday night.

• mlondi.radebe@witness.co.za

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