Death, devastation and heartbreak rain down in KZN
Death toll stands at 32 but experts say the figure is expected to rise as torrential rains batter the province
“He never stood a chance.”
That was the verdict of Lucky Mncube, moments before he was overcome with emotion as residents and rescue workers pulled the lifeless body of his 10-year-old nephew, Mnotho Mlotshwa, from a mountain of mud and rubble in Umlazi’s H section on Tuesday.
It was the sight of his nephew’s muddy leg that proved too painful for Mncube, who had harboured hope that Mnotho would be found alive during the five-hour search for him.
Torrential rains battered KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape on Monday, forcing schools, businesses and train services to close on Tuesday.
Mnotho was last seen playing inside the RDP house he shared with his father, shortly before the house above theirs collapsed, crashing into their home and burying him in the rubble.
He and a cousin had not gone to school because of the heavy rain and floods that had ravaged most of KZN since Monday evening. His cousin was able to get out of the house unharmed.
“I left them here in the morning and there was no sign that there was anything wrong. I went to access a house nearby that had been affected by the storm and as I came over the hill I saw a crowd gathered by the house,” said Mncube.
Hundreds of residents watched in shock, sharing their disappointment about the quality of their homes.
“The government needs to do better,” one said. “This would have never happened in Umhlanga,” another added.
Less then 500m away, the Sithe family awaited a mortuary vehicle to collect the body of Sibaphiwe Sithole, 41, who died after a wall caved in following the rain, crushing him in his sleep on Monday night.
“My brother was sleeping in one of the rooms when, because of the rain, the mud outside slid and crashed into the house, crushing him,” said Mfanafuthi, Sibaphiwe’s brother.
“We want the municipality to step in and do something. The houses here are all cracked and falling apart.”
According to the provincial co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) department, the death toll following the rain and floods in the province stood at 32.
Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube told media on Tuesday that massive damage had been “inflicted on public and private infrastructure”.
She said more than 2,000 emergency calls had been logged since Monday night.
“From where we stand, we have reports of collapsed walls and mudslides, as well as roads that have been flooded.”
She said parts of KwaZulu-Natal were also experiencing power outages because of the extreme weather.
Emergency workers have been responding to desperate calls for help since early on Tuesday morning.
“The weather is not going to be abating soon, as the weather centre is reporting that we will receive 60% of rain today and gale-force winds will be coming from the southern part of KZN.”
Cogta will be conducting assessments of the damage but estimates that it could run into millions.
eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, who visited several of the affected areas, said disaster management teams had already been deployed to various sectors of the city to establish assembly points for displaced families.
“We have put up marquees, spoken to local priests and have opened up our community halls so our community can go and settle there to get hot meals and be safe until everything has been cleared. We want all our public members to be safe. If you feel that where you are is not safe, please phone your councillors because we are all working together to resolve this issue.”
Gumede said a provincial state of emergency would only be declared once government had completed an investigation into the extent of damage in the province.
SA Weather Service spokesperson Hannelee Doubell said the weather system was expected to exit the country from the east coast of the Eastern Cape on Thursday.
“The South African Weather Service warns the public and especially learners to take the necessary precautions and avoid the crossing of rivers and swollen streams where water is above ankles, and move to higher ground when flooding is possible.”
According to Doubell, in the past 24 hours Paddock on the KZN south coast received 235mm of rain, while Mt Edgecombe and Virginia, north of Durban, received 162mm and 163mm respectively.
Athlone Park, south of Durban, which was severely hit by the rain, recorded 165mm.
Doubell said: “It’s a lot of rain to fall in 24 hours.”