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STAFF WRITERS and SAPA
TWO TORNADOES ripped through Gauteng and Free State towns just hours apart yesterday, leaving two children dead, hundreds injured and hundreds more homeless.
Early estimates suggest at least 1 000 homes were destroyed in Ficksburg’s Meqheleng informal settlement.
Rescue teams were assessing the damage in Meqheleng township today, where a nine-year-old boy died and at least 42 people were injured.
The tornado hit Zone 8, damaging between 20 and 30 houses in that section alone, said Setsoto municipality spokesman Thabo Mokoena.
“The roofs were blown off some houses, and other buildings fell down,” he said.
Meqheleng Concerned Citizens leader Molefe Nonyane said the tornado hit at about 2pm.
“This is an area where the poorest of the poor live. It was so strong that it even removed grass from the ground,” Nonyane said.
People affected by the tornado would be sheltered in the Ficksburg town hall and churches would provide food and blankets.
In Duduza outside Nigel, an eight-year-old was killed and 113 people were injured after a tornado struck.
Ekurhuleni municipality spokesman Justice Mohale said 166 people were taken to hospitals, including Pholosong Hospital in Tsakane and the Far East Rand Hospital in Springs.
The clean-up continued this morning in Duduza.
The tornado “that wreaked havoc” in Masechaba Extension 2 had also destroyed more than 150 houses, while power lines were disrupted and trees uprooted.
Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele was due to address the media this morning.
A tornado is a thunderstorm associated with heavy wind, which contains a funnel cloud, according to the Pretoria weather office.
Within that funnel there is a rotation, coming downwards from the top, it said.
In Meqheleng this morning, residents began rebuilding their homes and clearing debris.
Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said initial reports were that houses in the township had been flattened “as far as the eye could see”.
“From reports we are receiving from our personnel on the ground it is a total disaster. Everywhere one looks there is debris.
“Reports we have received estimate that at least 1 000 homes have been destroyed.”
The nine-year-old boy had suffered “severe trauma” to his internal organs and sustained multiple injuries from flying debris.
Many of the people who were injured had been hit by debris and suffered severe lacerations and broken bones, emergency services staff said.
SA Weather Service forecaster Bransby Bulo said storm warnings had been issued on a number of radio and television stations early yesterday.
“Reports indicate that winds – which were part of a larger storm system – were in excess of 70km/h, which are very, very strong and associated with extremely severe thunderstorm systems,” Bulo said.
“Reports to our offices indicate that tornadoes struck in the Ficksburg area and in Springs.
“While these types of windy conditions are not unusual for this time of year, tornadoes are. These systems are likely to subside by late tomorrow.”
People should stay indoors during tornado-type conditions to avoid being injured by flying debris.