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Durban woman in anguish after losing 5 family members in storm; Cogta fears death toll may rise

“When I saw Zekhethelo’s body getting removed from the rubble that used to be our house, I felt like dying...,” said Cindy Jileka, who lost five family members, including her two children in a storm on Monday.

PART of a road in Ntuzuma collapsed in heavy rains on Monday night. Picture Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Apr 13, 2022


DURBAN - A HAMMARSDALE woman says her family have been left in anguish following the deaths of five family members, including her two children.

The family were in their house when it collapsed after a railway track tumbled on to it during Monday night’s heavy rains.

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The rains battered Durban and other parts of the province, resulting in floods, mudslides and destruction of property and public infrastructure.

Cindy Jileka, 38, who lives in Durban, said she received the heartbreaking news on Monday evening from her ailing mother, and travelled to Georgedale, Hammarsdale.

“I lost my two kids, Akhile and Zekhethelo. They were my everything, and gave me the courage to get up and look for work every day.

“When I saw Zekhethelo’s body getting removed from the rubble that used to be our house, I felt like dying. I console myself in the knowledge that this was God’s will,” said Jikela.

She added that the deaths of her sister, Bonakele, and her sister’s two children were devastating.

Jileka described her sister as a courageous individual who had been an entrepreneur.

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KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala, eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and other government figures visited the Jileka family yesterday and pledged to provide assistance.

Speaking on the death toll, the KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) said the death toll across the province had reached more than 45 by yesterday afternoon.

During an Executive Council meeting on Wednesday night, reports further revealed that 14 others lost their lives in Ndwedwe and Kwadukuza in the iLembe District.

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Cogta KZN spokesperson Senzelwe Mzila said: “This number could possibly increase as more reports come in.”

He said disaster management teams and law-enforcement agencies were working together with social partners to provide relief to affected communities. Zikalala was expected to hold an emergency meeting with the province’s executive council last night.

In other parts of the city, rescue teams worked to free residents who were left trapped in their homes due to flooding and mudslides.

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In Isipingo, Mark Gounder, a community activist who was on the ground rescuing stranded residents, said that access points to and from Isipingo were completely closed. “The most affected area was Isipingo Beach in the vicinity of an area called Crab City. The riverbank burst and water started to rise up to the first floor of the buildings, so we went out to rescue people,” he said.

Gounder added that they had received assistance from several boat clubs in eManzimtoti.

“We also had assistance from the surf rescue team. I have been out since 3am this morning. I joined the beach manager. Our first rescue was a family of four who couldn’t get to land, so we had to help them out. Then there were some guys who had climbed up trees because their vehicles were submerged.”

There was also a rescue operation under way late yesterday afternoon to rescue teachers and pupils at Tholulwazi High School in Molweni. They had been trapped in the school on Monday.

KZN Education head of department Nathi Ngcobo said: “We were very worried about the plight of our teachers and pupils at Tholulwazi High School. We are very relieved that the process of rescuing them has started, and we thank God that there was no life lost during the ordeal.”

In a media briefing earlier yesterday, Kaunda said that electricity and water supply to several areas had been disrupted due to the flooding.

“The city calls on the public to be patient and understanding as there will be delays in restoring services. Numerous areas have suffered water and electricity outages caused by loss or damage to infrastructure. There are several major high-voltage substations which have been flooded and are currently inaccessible,” Kaunda said.

Meanwhile, Vodacom said the widespread flooding had impacted network infrastructure in KZN, including more than 400 towers, largely due to disruptions to the electricity supply.

“As a result, certain customers in a number of coastal areas – from Ballito in the north to Amanzimtoti in the south – are currently experiencing intermittent mobile services. Additionally, some fibre customers are being impacted because of waterlogged fibre ducts.

“Vodacom is working hard to restore connectivity in impacted areas as quickly and as safely as possible.”

MTN also confirmed that more than 500 of its sites were down in the province. MTN said the heavy rains had caused widespread damage to infrastructure and power outages in the region.

SEVERAL areas under Ugu District Municipality on the KwaZulu-Natal South coast have suffered extensive damage to their road and water infrastructure following heavy downpours that lashed large parts of the province on Monday.

France Zama, Ugu Municipality’s spokesperson, said there was extensive damage to their road and ailing water infrastructure.

“All four local municipalities have been affected, and many people have been displaced, and we are trying to accommodate them.

“We are one of the areas that have been hard hit.

“In some areas flooding has prompted disaster management teams in the district to evacuate residents from their washed-away homes to areas of safety. Water and sanitation infrastructure has been severely damaged in large parts of the district, resulting in water disruptions in most areas,’’ said Zama.

In Pietermaritzburg, residents from Dark City in Sobantu township were up until 3am yesterday watching the rising water, which threatened to destroy their homes after the Masukwane River burst its banks and flooded nearby homes.

Ward councillor Sandile Dlamini said there was a sigh of relief around 3am when the water started receding.

The area was among those that were hard hit by the storm. Other affected areas include Imbali Unit AA, Unit BB, Ashdown, Northdale Ward 28, Jika Joe and France Phases in Msunduzi Municipality.

The municipality said reports had been received of a number of roads that were blocked and inaccessible, and of mudslides in Edendale, Imbali and Vulindlela areas.

Dlamini said that by yesterday, they had calculated that at least 10 homes had been damaged by the storm in Dark City.

Dlamini said the biggest danger, however, came from the Masukwane River.

“There is a point where the Masukwane River and the Msunduzi River connect, it’s an awkward corner, and municipal engineers suspect that it is at this point of connection where pressure built up causing the water to flow into people’s homes.

“The engineers said they would have to expand the river to allow the water to flow freely and prevent a similar occurrence,” he said.

Dlamini said the situation was extremely dangerous.

“It’s fortunate that no injuries or deaths were reported – the one person who lives close to the river was able to move. We were sitting here until 3am watching the river, there was relief when we started seeing the water receding,” he said. He added that those who were displaced by the storms might have been accommodated by relatives as they had not requested help from the municipality, saying the calls they have received were for food.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Ntobeko Mkhize said the municipality would be providing relief in the form of food parcels, mattresses, blankets and temporary accommodation to the affected families.

“The deputy mayor, Mxolisi Mkhize, has led a delegation to inspect homes and infrastructure that were damaged by the rainfall. This will help to determine the relief and intervention required,” she said.

Thando Mgaga of uMngeni Municipality in Howick said most of the damage had been to their infrastructure.

He said the previous storm caused damage of more than R200 million.

“We had repaired some of the damage like potholes, and with this rain they have opened up again, which increases the figure of the initial R200m plus initial damage.”

He said there had been flooding at some informal settlements, but no reports had been received of people being displaced.

Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said at least 97 schools were damaged in the floods.

He said this number was expected to rise as some schools were inaccessible.

South African Democratic Teachers Union KZN secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said they were worried that learning would be affected, as many schools were damaged.

She urged union members to exercise caution.

“We urge members to be responsible for your lives and to take decisions that will save lives and protect those around you,” she said.