Two sub-stations — one in Northdale and another in Prestbury — exploded late on Thursday afternoon, causing further disruption to residents already counting the cost of Wednesday’s massive hailstorm and heavy downpours.
The Witness received reports of a big explosion, followed by smoke billowing out from the power plant in Tomlison Road, and later a video showing smoke coming from a sub-station in Lahore Road.
Deputy mayor Manilal Inderjit said firefighters had been sent to the fire in Northdale, but he was unsure how much damage had been caused to the sub-station.
A few hours earlier staff had repaired a cable fault in Northdale that had caused residents living in Balhambra, Mysore, Lahore, Karupana, Deccan, Delhi, Eden, Khan, Zubeda roads to lose power.
Inderjit was not aware of the sub-station explosion in Prestbury at the time of speaking, but said staff had been working at full stretch to deal with outages reported across the city.
Areas affected included Newholmes, Woodlands, Happy Valley, Athlone, Town Bush Road, Waldorf and part of Chase Valley, Oak Park, the area around Peter Brown Road, Bulwer and Burger streets, Westgate, Mpumelo, Foxhill, Glenwood, part of Bishopstowe, Thembalihle, Thamboville, Beacon Hill, Mpumuza, Claridge and parts of Pelham.
“There are electricity and water challenges across the city. It will be a few days before we know the full extent of the damage,” said Inderjit.
The municipality appealed to residents to be patient and asked them to switch off non-essential appliances until the load stabilises to avoid a complete collapse of the power network in the city.
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) said 39,4 mm of rain fell in Pietermaritzburg between 8 am on Wednesday and 8 am on Thursday.
The deluge caused flooding in several parts of the city, including the Jika Joe informal settlement. Burst pipes were also reported on Sweetwaters Road and at Welcome Way in Hayfields.
The KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) said more than 70 homes in the Msunduzi Municipality area were damaged by hail.
The City’s disaster management unit was inundated with calls for help from desperate residents.
Emergency control centre senior officer Essack Khan said the teams could not respond to all the incidents on Wednesday, so they went out again yesterday to help those living in KwaPata, Caluza, Peace Valley, Elandskop, Sweetwaters, Jika Joe and Ashdown.
Most people needed plastic sheets to cover their roofs, which were damaged in the storm.
“We have stock,” Khan said. “We don’t have tents at the moment but the majority of the homes require plastic sheeting for waterproofing the roof.
“Those homes that require food, blankets and mattresses — we have sufficient stock at the moment and can assist.”
Wednesday’s violent hailstorm left people with damaged roofs, guttering, windows and vehicles.
Resident Henry Spencer described the storm as “horrific”, adding: “The garden was decimated, as were plastic pipes and chairs. Roof tiles were chipped and even our car has a few dents and a broken windscreen.
“But I guess, measured by weather-induced tragedies in the rest of the world, we were quite lucky.”
In Sweetwaters, Msunduzi executive committee member councillor Sibongiseni Majola said most of the roof tiles on his house had holes or cracks in them and will have to be removed and replaced.
“We [are] expecting to spend no less than R30 000 because about 50% of the tiles are no longer usable,” he said.
“Other than the fact that we never budgeted for this, we might not be able to get the same tile design as the house is more than 20 years old, but we’ll see when we get to the hardware.”
Majola said that after they fixed the roof they would need to deal with the damage caused by the water that seeped through the ceiling boards, wetting beds and other furniture.
Panelbeaters and glaziers kept busy
Panelbeaters and glaziers across Pietermaritzburg were kept busy throughout the day as customers called wanting quotes for damage to their cars and homes.
Kenny Govender, manager of Joey’s Panelbeaters and Spraypainters in Salford Road, Nothdale, said: “This morning we were very busy giving quotations.
“It’s usually like that, then people come in over the next few days to get repairs.
“The damages we have seen have not been as severe as we thought. We initially thought that cars would be wrecked terribly.”
Claude Kalicharan, owner of CY Panelbeaters in Greyling Street, confirmed that he had also done numerous quotes, adding that many people were opting to wait and see if there was more bad weather before bringing vehicles in for repair.
Pietermaritzburg and the KZN Midlands were not the only areas of the province affected by the severe weather.
Lightning strikes kill two
Cogta reported that one person was killed in the Dlomodlomo area in the Umlalazi Local Municipality, and another in the Ulundi Local Municipality, as a result of lightning strikes.
A 22-year-old woman is also missing and is believed to have been swept away while trying to cross the Umlazi River in Umlazi F Section, in eThekwini.
In the Bhudlu area of the Umuziwabantu Municipality, meanwhile, a 10-year-old boy was rushed to hospital after being struck by lightning.
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SAWS reported that Port Edward had 19,6 mm of rain, while its Charters Creek station on the North Coast recorded 67 mm.
More rain is expected to fall today, with forecasters saying there is a 30% chance of thunderstorms and afternoon showers across the province in the coming days.
Dozens of birds treated at wildlife centre
It wasn’t just humans affected by yesterday afternoon’s severe hailstorm and downpours.
FreeMe Wildlife in Howick said its phones had not stopped ringing since Wednesday and that between 30 and 40 birds, including two owls, a gymnogene, a sparrowhawk, were being treated at the wildlife centre.
“From the smallest dove to large raptors, this storm has mostly affected our avian friends who were unable to withstand the hail while seeking cover in trees,” spokesperson, Wade Whitehead, said.
“A big thank you to all the caring members of the public who have taken the time out of their day to rescue the wildlife affected.”
FreeMe is also concerned that with it being the breeding season, numerous baby birds may also been affected by the storm and may not survive.