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Hundreds of Free State families have been left homeless, 42 people injured and a nine-year-old boy is dead after a tornado ripped through the north-eastern sections of the country on Sunday.
The storm – attributed to an extreme thunderstorm system – tore through the Free State town of Ficksburg on Sunday afternoon.
In Springs, Gauteng, a similar wind system struck, terrifying residents, who inundated the South African Weather Service with alerts about the storm.
By late on Sunday night the South African Weather Service website was still carrying storm warning “flashes” of severe thunderstorms in the North West Province, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the north-eastern sections of the Free State.
Within hours of the storm flattening Ficksburg’s Meqheleng informal settlement, the town’s disaster relief plan had been activated, with emergency personnel responding from across the province.
Netcare 911’s Chris Botha said the area looked like a disaster zone with “houses flattened as far as one could see”.
“From reports we are receiving from our personnel on the ground it is a total disaster. Everywhere one looks there is debris.
“We have assisted with the transport of 42 patients who were injured in the strong winds, which killed a nine-year-old boy. Two residents were seriously hurt.”
Botha said the boy died of severe trauma to his internal organs and multiple injuries caused by flying debris. The injured, who had been struck by debris and left with severe lacerations and broken bones, were taken to several local hospitals.
“A massive overnight search and rescue operation was launched to find people who have been reported missing. Also, to look for residents who have been injured and may be trapped under the wreckage of their homes.
“The situation on the ground is really bad and is not being helped by the fact that the storm hit late in the day, which makes searching for people difficult.
“Reports we have received estimate that at least 1 000 homes have been destroyed.”
Botha said that apart from sending paramedics from Ficksburg to the Meqheleng informal settlement, staff had been dispatched from the base in Bethlehem.
They had been joined by medical teams from other parts of the Free State.
South African Weather Service forecaster Bransby Bulo said storm warnings had been issued on a number of radio and TV stations early on Sunday.
“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.
“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, but rain will continue to fall in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.”
Bulo said when such warnings were issued, people should stay indoors to avoid being injured by flying debris.
Meanwhile 113 people were injured when a tornado hit Duduza outside Nigel, in Gauteng, on Sunday according to figures released on Monday morning.
"One hundred and eight people sustained minor injuries ranging from multiple scratches to bruises to even some fractures, and then five people, which is a total of 113, sustained more serious injuries," ER24 spokesman Andre Visser told SABC radio news.
Those who were displaced during the storm were being temporarily accommodated at the Duduza multi-purpose centre.
Gauteng health MEC Ntombi Mekgwe and Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele were expected to visit the area on Monday morning. - Pretoria News, Sapa
Virginia Greenwood-Warner, wrote
Has anyone tried to find out what happened to the poor terrified and maybe injured animals?
Very sad, such devastation! I hope they are also looking out for, and after the wounded and displaced animals!
Funny. "These storms are new" -- New in the context of what? Your miserable 20 years on this planet? Give me a break. Google video has a free video -- The great global warming swindle. Watch that and then decide if you believe the climate is changing outside of "normal parameters"
Tumi Khoza, wrote
Father, I pray for strength and calm for all families affected. I pray your mighty Hand to sustain them, and keep them in this time of trail. Forgive our sins and once again cleanse us with your precious blood. We pray for a speedy recovery process for all areas affected, in Jesus Name We Pray, Amen
someone died and you all are fighting about whether this is the end of the world or not. come on people open your eyes. dont't see things that are not thereand make it that which it is not!
there is a end of day's for all of us we just do not know when so we can not decide we know what God has in plan for us .We are in the nature and we have to except that we are not free of the things nature brings to us so stop blaming God for the things of nature and except that each and every one of us will reach the end and that is part of nature not God's way of telling us something.He already told us in the Bybel that we should surf him in spirit as he is spirit.
How many people take hide to warnings unless it is reality to them? How many people know that speed kills but still continue to speed? How many people know that Aids kills but still continue to be promiscuous. Take Noah's era in the bible how many people took hide to the warnings of great waters to come? same applies today. A few would have agreed to move but the rest would have questioned, Where would you takes us to? Iam really sorry for what has happened to them at the same time bacause they did not apply for this to happen, but all of us contributed to this in one way or another by destroying the environment.
Are ther no ALERTS for these types of weather(Tornado's), we are living in the North-West province and I am a bit concerned..
Sean Haywood, wrote
My heart goes out to the family of the 9 year old boy who was killed.
We really should be thankful that we do not often have extreme storms, although we have suffered from flooding caused by tropical cyclones such as Domoina. Tornadoes are not new to Southern Africa, although it is not a frequent occurence. On 18 January 1999, a tornado in Mount Ayliff killed 25 people, making it the deadliest one recorded. In the USA, tornadoes appear to become more frequent, although some believe it is because smaller ones were not recorded previously. Until 24 May 2011, at least 1208 occured in central and southern USA. Hurricanes (typhoons cyclones) also appear to become more frequent and devastating, not only in the Atlantic but also the Indian Ocean.
Wonder if the previous white government will be blamed?
talk abouth the Annanuki's plan coming in to effect in a perfect manner, WOW
I think many people convince themselves into thinking that they know a lot even in situations where common sense need to be applied. If we may have drought next year are you going to blame anything? Tornados have been around for centuries. If you don't know that then why do think you know a lot? There's nothing to blame here this is just a "NATURAL" desaster period!!!
Why do peopl alway think its the end of the damn world when these sorts of things happen! Yes its got alot to do with the shift in weather patterns but it does not mean its never happened before. this current clod front it sitting higher into the interior than normal and it just means that the air flow and up drafts are more intense, allowing these systems to form. Google it for those of you who "dont know what to do"... the more people LEARN about this the beter chance we have of seeing early warning signs!
Is it not Jacob Zuma and the ANC led government? we blame government for everything and lose sense in btwn. The very same govt has to secure unbudgeted funds for such disasters...
Anonymous 9:03am - I agree wholeheartedly. The kind of storms we've been seeing are new. Since last "summer" in Johannesburg, we've had thunderstorms with rain of such torrential ferocity that they're more like monsoons. Whereas in the past a really bad storm might have occurred once in the summer, now they're occurring regularly. I'd love to know what the Met office has to say about all this - but I doubt they know either.
mankind doesnot know how angry god is with them they constantly disobey him like the first comm the end is sooner than we think
Thank goodness we have Gavin's "expert" opinion to set the record straight.
Weather does not equal climate.