Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
Durban - When Durban resident Ilse Robert stepped out of her front gate to do a spot of gardening on Saturday, she did not think much of the road sign lying on the pavement.
Inspecting the plants along the front wall of her Cato Road home in Glenwood, she stepped on to the sign, which gave way, plunging her down a hidden manhole.
Sandwiched in the dark recess on top of the manhole’s broken concrete cover, Robert screamed for help without success, the noise of the gardener mowing the lawn drowning out her cry for help.
“My adrenalin kicked in, and I managed to climb out,” she said. Clinging to the rim of the manhole, she shouted to the gardener to call her children for help.
Robert’s fall was not an isolated incident. A 53-year-old woman died after she fell into an uncovered manhole in Westville recently.
Nonsikelelo Tenza was walking home with her boyfriend, Mvumeni Isaiah, when she fell. According to Isaiah, the hole was not only uncovered, but hidden by grass.
In another incident, it was reported yesterday that a Pietermaritzburg man had fallen into a shallow manhole and injured his foot.
Tom Beatson was in the city for business when he stumbled, and had to postpone the rest of his day’s plans.
Robert sustained multiple injuries, with her arm in a sling when she spoke to The Mercury on Monday.
“I am stuck at home, I can’t take my kids to school and do all the necessary things,” said the single mother.
She said she had fractured ribs and there was severe bruising on her torso. Her lower legs were badly scraped.
With construction work on stormwater drains having taken place in her area recently, Roberts noted that her pavement was usually covered in sand, and the manhole had never been visible.
Although she was unsure how the manhole cover had been broken, she said it was the city’s responsibility to ensure they were covered at all times.
When she returned from hospital, she saw that the cover had been replaced, but with a lid that did not fit properly.
The eThekwini deputy head of road and storm water maintenance, Shan Govender, said last night that as soon as missing covers were discovered they were repaired.
He said construction taking place near manholes occasionally did lead to the covers being damaged.
The city was responsible for ensuring that covers were not missing, but if third parties were found to be responsible for missing or damaged covers the municipality would hold them accountable.