Bongani Hans, Bernadette Wolhuter and Sapa
DURBAN: At least 10 people died and many more were injured in heavy rains that wreaked havoc in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday night.
In Mpumalanga 14 people were killed when a bridge on the R65 between Lothair and Ermelo collapsed during heavy rains, Mpumalanga Community Safety Department spokesman Joseph Mabuza said yesterday.
Three vehicles, one of them a taxi, were involved in the accident. “The cars were swept away by high volumes of water,” he said.
The bridge collapsed around 9.50pm on Monday night. Initially, six people were found dead and others were missing.
“Police have [since] retrieved the missing bodies,” Mabuza said.
KZN Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube said yesterday afternoon that the department had confirmed two deaths at Megavillage informal settlement in uMlazi, six in Chatsworth, one in Kwa-Dabeka near Clermont and one in Mzinto on the South Coast.
However, Dube said, the department had received reports of more deaths, which had not yet been confirmed. These included three children in Dassenhoek, near Mariannhill, when heavy rains caused the wall of the house they were sleeping in to collapse on them.
EThekwini Metro police said three children were among those killed when their shacks collapsed in Bayview informal settlement in Chatsworth and at Kwa-Dabeka. Two of the children were killed together with their mother. All victims were asleep.
A 25-year-old woman, Delisile Cele, and her boyfriend, Sbo Shezi, 30, died when their home collapsed.
Zanele Cele, 45, said she was asleep with her common-law husband when she heard people outside shouting “Delisile and Sbo are buried by mud.”
“It was about 4am when I heard the noise. I rushed to my the house and found people already there trying to pull them out,” said Cele.
“We dug for about 30 minutes until we found their bodies on the bed covered with blankets.”
Voeter Bhengu said his cousin’s 11-year-old son, Thula Shangase, escaped death when his family’s house collapsed.
But Bhengu’s sister-in-law, Zinhle Sosibo, did not survive when a high wall behind the the house collapsed.
“It took us about 30 minutes to dig Zinhle’s body out of the mud. My cousin only returned from work at about 6am after we had already dug his girlfriend out of the mud,” said Bhengu.
Road Traffic Inspectorate spokeswoman Mngomezulu said traffic in Nkandla had to be diverted from the P90 when the Nsuze River Bridge was washed away.
Mngomezulu said the N2 northbound road had to be closed for two hours due to a mudslide.
Emergency personnel have had their hands full dealing with emergencies.
Netcare911 spokesman Chris Botha said paramedics, along with the fire department and the police search and rescue unit, saved nine homeless people who were trapped in the middle of the flooded Umhlatuzana River. They had been trying to cross the river yesterday morning.
The National Sea Rescue Institue’s (NSRI) Craig Lambinon said his crews had assisted in numerous operations, including one where three people were rescued from a flooded housing complex in iFafa Club Marina Resort, south of Umzinto.
The police search and rescue unit saved three people in KwaMashu, near Bridge City, after they abandoned their vehicle on a flooded bridge above the Umhlangane River and scrambled up scaffolding to escape the rising water levels.
In Amajuba a bus transporting members from the South African Local Government Association was involved in an accident at a bridge near Newcastle. Rescue teams helped 17 injured people and freed the driver who had been trapped in the wreckage.
MEC Nomusa Dube said the rains had caused damage to property totalling tens of millions of rand throughout the province. She said the worst hit area was Acacia Vale, describing the damage as “huge”.
The weather system that caused the recent storms has moved north for the time being and mild conditions are predicted for KwaZulu-Natal until the end of the week.
The system is, however, likely to return on Saturday when weather similar to that experienced over the past two days is expected.