Man killed, 70 injured in Eastern Cape storm

2017-01-04 06:57
A house damaged in a freak storm in Mthatha. (Supplied)

A house damaged in a freak storm in Mthatha. (Supplied)

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Cape Town - Eastern Cape weather forecasters have warned that there may be another severe storm in the province on Thursday.

This after a 54-year-old man was killed and at least 70 people were injured in Monday's storm.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health's spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said that, apart from the seven people who were struck by lightning, 23 children were among those injured by flying corrugated iron roofs and other objects that the extremely strong winds ripped up and flung about.

The Bedford Hospital in Mthatha had its hands full, dealing with broken limbs and other fractures, and the Mbekweni Health Centre also assisted.

Once they were stabilised the injured were referred to other hospitals in the area for further treatment.

Kupelo said most of the injuries were from being hit by flying objects, with most of the damage centred in Payne and Mqanduli.

Vehicles were also damaged and panicked motorists pulled off the roads while the storm blew over them.

Some returning holidaymakers also found that their houses were seriously damaged.

"It was terrible," said Kupelo.

He recalled a tornado which occurred in 1998 while he was a reporter covering a Mthatha visit by former president Nelson Mandela, and said these storms approached so quickly that people were are often caught off guard.

Herd boys were often out in the fields with cattle, or families were in the open slaughtering, and often did not have enough time to run for safety.

Herd boys particularly at risk

The structure of some of the more traditional homes were also particularly vulnerable in storms of that magnitude, but on Monday even modern structures were not spared.

Roofs were completely ripped off some houses and walls collapsed, while the wind and rain lashed the area.

Weather SA Eastern Cape forecaster Garth Simpson said the service's radars did not show evidence of a tornado "hook", but the storm appeared to have caused as much damage.

"There were no signs of twisting. So chances are [it was] not likely a tornado," said Simpson.

He said storms were not uncommon for the region at this time of year, and that they do issue storm warnings.

They were also monitoring a possible storm predicted for the region for Thursday.

"No severe storms are expected today (Tuesday), but there is a chance of more thunderstorms occurring towards Thursday," said Simpson.

"In places in the Eastern Cape, they could be severe, but we will keep you informed via warnings on the website, as the situation develops," he said.

Kupelo urged people who spend a lot of time outdoors to be particularly careful of weather conditions at this time of year. 

Herd boys, for example, were particularly at risk because there was little shelter for them in the open, and standing under a tree increased their risk of being struck by lightning.

Read more on:    east london  |  weather

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