WATCH | 'A wasteland in place of a home' - KZN sisters after mudslides damaged property

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article

  • Two KwaZulu-Natal sisters are trying to pick up the pieces after heavy rains following the devastating floods left their home covered in mud.
  • The sisters grew up in the home.
  • They described their family home as a "wasteland" after mudslides in the area last weekend.

Two KwaZulu-Natal sisters were battling to pick up the pieces after heavy mudslides left their home covered to the brim with mud and water last weekend.

Severe weather conditions continued to wreak havoc in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, with the latest incidents reported just six weeks after parts of the province were struck by devastating flooding in which more than 400 people died.

The Barnard sisters said last Saturday their family home in Umdloti Beach was filled with mud and water, which destroyed everything inside their home.

Speaking to News24, the sisters Janelle, 27, and Bianca, 24, described their muddy home as a total "wasteland".

Janelle said: 

Last week Saturday, we had left home at 04:00 and headed to Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park for what was meant to be a birthday weekend away for me. My partner's mom, who is in her late fifty's, was house-sitting for us and looking after our animals. For most of the day, we had no signal, until we climbed the hill up to Mpila camp on Saturday afternoon and messages started coming through about the level-10 alert. My heart sank.

She said they immediately called her boyfriend's mom to check in on her and see how things were going.

"At that point, everything was okay, however, mud had come down already and closed the dead-end road. Things began to worsen after 17:00, and we started contemplating whether we should take the risk of driving back home, even though the entire coastline up to where we were staying was on a level-10 alert," Janelle added.

She said that at 20:30 they received a call that her partner's mom was being evacuated by boat by the National Sea Rescue Institute.

The side of the Barnard house filled with mud.
Photo Supplied

"Windows were being broken in the house due to the force of the mud and water, and two of our pets were missing. The pets that could be found were placed in a car in front of the house. We then made the conscious decision to take the risk and drive home," she said.

According to the sisters, the drive back home was eerie as they drove in "complete silence" with clear skies and not a single drop of rain until they reached Ballito.

"On the drive back, I received a call from one of my closest friends, whose family immediately offered to get their flatlet ready to welcome us all," Janelle added.

The back of the family home was also filled with mud.
Photo Supplied

They said they reached Umdloti just before midnight with one goal in mind – "to get our pets out safely."

The sisters and their partners waded through "chest-high mud and sewerage" to get to the house to search for their five pets.

"While we waited in the car for them to return, we could hear buildings falling," Bianca recalled.

"Most of our animals were found and placed into crates, with our dog, Bobby, on a leash. We trekked back across the mud and sewerage. At that point, we couldn't find Jinx, the little black kitty we knew would have never run out of the house in a storm. She tends to hide in cupboards, so we feared the worst," said Bianca.

The Barnard family home filled with mud inside.
Photo Supplied

When they returned home the following day, they found that their family home, which their parents had designed and built together, was ceiling-high covered in mud.

"The morning after the floods were truly something shocking. Cognitive dissonance: A wasteland in place of a home. Red sand standing as tall as the ceilings; floating couches; broken windows; our possessions littered across the place. It's the sort of nightmarish sight you wish to wake up from," said Bianca.

"After a few days of what felt like a fever dream, I remembered I had jewellery from my gran and mom still in my bedroom, that I needed to get out. We headed back into the house to sift through the mud. While we were chatting quietly in the room, we heard a noise in the cupboard. It was Jinx!" added Bianca.

The entire family home has been flooded with mud and water.
Photo Supplied
Janelle and Bianca Barnard's family home of 28 years has been badly damaged by the recent KZN floods.
Photo Supplied

Janelle said most of their material possessions have been lost inside the house, with Bianca's bedroom being the most impacted.

"My sister lost her laptop, passport, birth certificate, and university degrees to the ceiling-high mud in her bedroom. Collectively, we lost irreplaceable family heirlooms, pictures of our parents – we lost our dad in 2002 and most recently our mom in 2019 – and the last videos we had of our mom," said Janelle.

The sisters said they stayed at a friend's place for the first few nights after their home was destroyed.

"We're now in an Airbnb until next week. We still feel displaced and are hoping to find a more stable base so we can adjust to our recent loss," said Janelle.

That home has been "a safe haven for Janelle and me for most of our lives," added Bianca.

Janelle said: 

We had both moved out when we finished school, but the passing of our mom brought us back into our family home in 2019. One thing that has been a constant in our home is music. When our parents were still alive, a miscellaneous mixed bag of music would often blare from our sound system, adding a sense of soul to our home, while we as a family danced together until our feet ached.

"When our dad died, our mom kept our tradition as well as his spirit alive with music. When she died, Janelle and I kept hers alive in much the same way," said Bianca.

The sisters said they had insurance on the home but would look for long-term rental for at least the next six months.

"Over the past week, the insurers have fast-tracked a lot for us given the severity of our situation, and while most will be covered, the BackaBuddy funds are going to cover crucial reinforcement that will hopefully help the shell of what's left of our home survive the next heavy rains," said Janelle.

What is looks like inside the Barnard family home in KZN.
Photo Supplied

The sisters added that their main goal right now was to try and restore what was damaged.

"It's devastating to see what has become of our home. I think for my sister and I right now, the main focus is to clear what the mud and rain have caused and then try and rebuild our lives," Janelle added.

Never miss a story. Choose from our range of newsletters to get the news you want delivered straight to your inbox. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your thoughts on the possibility of having permanent Stage 2 or 3 load shedding?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'll take that over constant schedule changes
13% - 1623 votes
Why are we normalising Eskom’s mess?
72% - 8956 votes
I've already found alternative ways of powering my home/business
15% - 1831 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.