City ‘was ill-equipped’

2019-11-12 15:00
Nomazizi Mtebeni from Nhlalakahle points to where her house was badly damaged during the heavy rains on Sunday. PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

Nomazizi Mtebeni from Nhlalakahle points to where her house was badly damaged during the heavy rains on Sunday. PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

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Msunduzi Municipality’s disaster management unit was not equipped to render assistance to families who were left destitute after their homes were destroyed during this weekend’s flood rains.

The South African Weather Service had warned of severe storms and flooding, but irate residents and councillors said disaster management had no tents, blankets or food packs to give families in Nhlalakahle informal settlement in Northdale, and others in the upper Edendale areas who were left homeless by the heavy rain that fell on Sunday afternoon and early on Monday morning.

Rooksana Ahmed, ward 39 councillor in Northdale, was left fuming and disheartened when she called Msunduzi’s disaster management and got no assistance from them.

“People’s homes were destroyed, and water was pouring uncontrollably into other people’s homes. I called the manager for disaster management and she told me that she was on leave. She said only one person was on duty on Sunday night and that the person was busy attending the situation in ward 39, in Vulindlela, which is like 30 km away from Nhlalakahle. So he wasn’t able to come out to help us here,” said Ahmed.

Ward 39 councillor Thandiwe Madondo told The Witness that three homes were destroyed in Vulingqondo at the weekend. She said disaster management did come out on Sunday night but said the families whose homes were destroyed were only given plastic sheeting, as disaster management had no tents for them. “The residents said that’s all disaster management had to offer, plastic sheeting. What are they expected to do with that after their entire homes are destroyed?” said Madondo.

The Witness, accompanied by councillor Ahmed, visited Nhlalakahle on Monday morning where residents were trying to rebuild their homes before the next downpour.

Sizakele Nkothe’s home of four years was destroyed, leaving her and her family homeless. “The water was ... hitting the house, then there were leaks on the walls. We started moving some of our clothes and the kids’ schoolbooks to our neighbour’s house but the entire house collapsed before we were finished.

“There are children in Grade 11, Grade 8 and another one who is writing subs for her matric exams in the house. Their books and uniforms were destroyed when the house collapsed, and they are busy writing exams. They had to go write their exams not wearing their school uniforms today[yesterday],” she said.

Nkothe said the buckets they used to store their food were all destroyed and washed away during the rain.

She said after their house collapsed, some of their neighbours came out and stood in the rain fearing that their houses would also collapse.

Another resident, Nomazizi Mtebeni, said she saw the rain clouds gather and started digging trenches above her house hoping that would redirect the floods. “I told everyone that the rain was coming and tried to dig trenches but that didn’t help much because the one wall of my house was destroyed. The water was pouring in and the floor is still wet. My whole family gathered in the other room and we slept there,” she said.

Mtebeni, who has lived in the area since 1995, said her son would try patching up her wall for her.

“The councillor said we can go and sleep at the church or the community hall but we can’t leave our homes vacant because the crime is really bad here.

“Even if it’s not raining, we have to use a chain and padlock to lock the door from the inside when we sleep. Then we must block the door just to be safe,” she said.

When The Witness was at Nhlalakahle, employees from Msunduzi’s disaster management came to evaluate the damage but one of the employees said they only had mattresses to give to people.

Thobeka Mafumbatha, Msunduzi Municipality’s spokesperson, confirmed they only had mattresses and blankets to provide.

SA Weather Service forecaster Wiseman Dlamini said there is a 60% chance of showers and thunderstorms across the province today.

Dlamini said the likelihood of thunderstorms from Wednesday through to Saturday was far less.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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