5 dead, 2 missing and mop up operations begin as dozens of homes flooded, roads damaged in eThekwini storm

Water runs over a road where part of a bridge has washed away

A large part of a bridge was washed away between Verulam and Inanda in Saturday's storm. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo Independent Newspapers

Published Jan 15, 2024


FIVE people were killed and two are still missing after severe thunderstorms accompanied by strong winds battered the northern parts of eThekwini Municipality on Saturday.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Siboniso Mngadi said KwaDukuza and Ndwedwe Local Municipalities were also severely impacted.

Mngadi said two people died in the Folweni area after a retaining wall collapsed on their structure, another person was confirmed dead in uMlazi’s K Section due to a structural collapse, and in oThongathi two family members died when their shack collapsed on them. Two people are missing after floods washed away their informal structure.

“Search and rescue teams, led by SAPS K9 Unit, IPSS Medical Rescue, and Reaction Unit SA, are currently on the ground conducting search and rescue operations,” he said.

He said the heavy rains have also caused damage to infrastructure, leaving some communities in eThekwini and Stanger without water and electricity.

He said disaster response teams were providing aid to affected families including blankets, mattresses, and other necessary amenities.

“Our preliminary reports indicate that eThekwini has so far recorded over 250 households with over 1 000 people affected at this stage. As a precautionary measure, eThekwini Municipality has closed all beaches in the north, and some in the southern region,” said Mngadi.

Cogta said municipalities had also dispatched water tankers to affected areas.

Mngadi said some roads and bridges had also been affected, leading to road closures.

Part of Chartwell Drive, uMhlanga was washed away. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo Independent Newspapers

DA councillor Yogis Govender, who is the PR councillor assisting in oThongathi and Verulam, said oThongathi was badly affected.

“My ward in particular currently has two people unaccounted for off Old Mill Road. These are Tongaat Hulett-owned properties that are on a floodplain and flood every time we have heavy rains,” she said.

Govender said damage included washed away vehicles, mudslides and bridges under water.

OThongathi resident Rita Rama said the rain came down just after 9pm and five minutes later her home was flooded. She and her son spent the night at the Vishnu Temple with other affected residents.

“We came back this morning and took everything out because its mud and water logged. It was frightening,” she said.

Govender said Verulam had suffered massive road closures, mudslides and

electricity outages, adding that there were reports of main water pipe damage and bridges partially damaged.

Verulam councillor Johnson Chetty said in the Waterloo area some roads are impassable and houses were flooded due to blocked manholes.

“A bridge built by the council about two years ago is totally devastated. People’s vehicles were washed away in the river, retaining walls collapsed flooding neighbours’ property, asphalt was removed by the water, causing unsafe road surfaces,” he said.

UMhlanga Ratepayers and Residents Association chairperson Terri MacLarty said some hotels were flooded as well as a major grocery store at a shopping centre among other businesses.

“There’s a big pothole on Chartwell Drive. In Hilken Drive, I’ve had members calling me and asking for help and we’ve been trying to get emergency services out to them. In that road, the wastewater infrastructure collapsed and took half of the road and they couldn’t get their cars out of the driveway. It’s hectic,” she said, adding that at her complex, below the eastern slope, all the bottom units were totally flooded.

A manager of a bed and breakfast in uMhlanga, who asked not to be named

as he is not allowed to speak, said within 10 minutes the whole place was flooded.

“It caused major damage and all five rooms were flooded. We are a corner property and a retaining wall above us collapsed and that’s what caused the water to flow through the property.”

He added that there was a lot of damage.

“The pool is a mess, sofas and beds are completely soaked. We have no power after the house was flooded. All of the rooms have fridges, televisions and cookers and the problem is we don’t know if they are working.”

Mount Edgecombe Country Club CEO Desiree Stone said water came through the clubhouse, conference rooms and flooded the locker rooms.

“Ten hours later and we’ve cleaned it up. We are nearly back to normal.”

Stone said the club had flooded before and they had put in measures and new drainage to prevent this. But on Saturday Golf Course Drive flooded and the water came into the club.

Gateway Theatre of Shopping confirmed that a number of stores in the centre were impacted by the downpour, resulting in water ingress.

“Clean-up operations are already under way. We want to assure patrons

that the rest of the mall is unaffected and will be operating as normal.”

Phoenix councillor Michelle Lutchman said the flooding caused damage to both property and infrastructure.

“Several roads were rendered impassable due to the deluge. The winds also toppled trees and power lines, causing power outages and blocking roads. Numerous houses and businesses sustained damage from flooding, hail, and falling debris."

Lutchman said she has communicated with municipal officials to make community halls available for families in need of alternative accommodation.

Abed Karrim, of the Al-Imdaad Foundation, said disaster teams from the Durban office were assisting people with relief interventions.