Freak storm carves path of devastation through city

2018-12-19 15:00
An uprooted tree that ploughed into a business premises on Greyling Street.

An uprooted tree that ploughed into a business premises on Greyling Street. (Kerushun Pillay)

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Tuesday's massive thunderstorm and strong winds wreaked havoc throughout Pietermaritzburg and resulted in dozens of people being displaced and homes damaged in the Edendale area.

Roofs were blown off houses, power lines came down and dozens of trees were uprooted by the gale-force winds and heavy downpour which carved a path of devastation through the city and its surrounds. In Prestbury a resident recorded 35 to 40 mm of rain during the storm and said the gauge had then started to overflow.

One man complained that motorists caught up in the traffic jams were driving recklessly on the wrong side of the road and pavements to try and reach their destinations.

Several traffic lights were also out, adding to the misery.

A fallen tree on Hyslop Road caused traffic to be diverted onto Victoria Road which then became gridlocked.

A tree also reportedly fell on the N3 southbound in the vicinity of Peter Brown off-ramp. There were also reports of fallen trees on West, Burger, Retief and Loop streets.

The suburbs around the city were also affected.

Msunduzi parks and recreation staff, as well as private companies could be seen trying to remove trees blocking roads and ones that had fallen onto vehicles and buildings.

Parts of Northdale, Sweetwaters, Mpumuza, Foxhill and Ezinketheni lost power during Tuesday’s heavy downpour, Msunduzi spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo said on Tuesday.

Siphosonke Madonda, the ward 11 councillor in Snathing, where over 12 structures were hit, said he watched hopelessly in the aftermath of the storm as residents trudged through the mud to see what they could save from the wreckage of their dwellings.

“The state of the houses is very bad. It is devastating to watch. Most of these people don’t know where they are going to sleep tonight,” he said.

Mkhize said they were still evacuating some people from their homes, to save them from being swept away by the flooded (Duzi) river.

He said in addition to these, some other houses collapsed completely.

Madonda said the municipality was busy assessing the damage via Msunduzi’s disaster management team and would assist those who needed help.

“This is not something that we can sort out today because there are so many damaged houses. Luckily there were no injuries,” he said.

Ward 21 councillor Mntuza Mkhize said four houses were damaged in Dambuza.

Meanwhile, MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Nomusa Dube-Ncube has urged people across KwaZulu-Natal to take great caution as heavy rains are expected across parts of the province during the festive season.

“It is important that residents pay attention to weather reports and ensure that before they travel, they check the weather forecast. If you happen to be caught in a storm, it is important to reduce speed and search for a safe place to park until the storm passes” said Dube-Ncube.

This came after disaster management teams were dispatched across Pietermaritzburg following yesterday’s freak storm.

Mayor Themba Njilo, who visited the affected areas on Tuesday evening, said the City had requested Cogta’s assistance because their teams could not manage on their own.

“The damage is quite bad but we are trying to sort out the urgent things like making sure that people are safe and have somewhere to sleep. Our teams are busy clearing access routes, fixing burst water pipes and trying to restore power,” he said.

Meanwhile, one person died in an accident involving two cars on the N3 between Market Road and Ashburton late on Tuesday afternoon. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  heavy rains
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