Focus on rebuilding in oThongathi

Published Jun 18, 2024


Just over two weeks after a devastating tornado tore through oThongathi (Tongaat), reducing many homes to rubble and altering lives forever, the people of the affected areas found themselves spending Father’s Day and Youth Day in a profoundly different way.

The celebrations which would have been marked by joyous gatherings and heartfelt moments, was overshadowed by the devastating impact of the tornado.

oThongathi became unrecognisable amid the debris of uprooted trees and 7 000 houses damaged with 12 people losing their lives, while damage costs following the devastating storm have reached R1.3 billion.

Many families spent the long weekend sifting through the remains of their homes, searching for salvageable items, and comforting one another in the face of unimaginable loss.

Sibongiseni Mzila said he did not even realise it was Father’s Day on Sunday.

“I do not have the luxury of celebrating holidays when my situation is like this,” he said. Mzila said he has not started rebuilding his home and is still living at the Maqhawe Community Office.

Dorine Biyela said she had returned to her home after spending a week at the Newtown Community Hall.

“My children managed to do some temporary repairs to our home although we lost most of our furniture, but we managed to survive.”

“Nothing is worth celebrating when things are like this. We will celebrate holidays after we get our homes fixed and get back to our lives,” said Biyela.

Khanyisile Masoka, 21, said she did not celebrate Youth Day as she was focused on fixing their home.

“During the storm, we lost our only source of income, our tuck shop. I am not yet working so we are just focused on getting our old life back. My brothers and I did wish our grandfather a happy Father’s Day and he was happy,” said Masoka.

Relief measures are still in place as people are now getting assistance with building materials.

The Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the KZN provincial government in a joint statement said mop-up, recovery and relief efforts were ongoing.

They said six district municipalities in KZN were affected.

“At this stage, the estimated cost of damage amounts to over R1.3bn for the entire province, with eThekwini Metro alone accounting for over R480 million,” provincial government spokesperson Bongi Gwala said.

Ongoing assessments indicate that over 7 000 households have been affected so far.

“About 20 schools were severely damaged, and roads, bridges, community halls and electricity infrastructure have also been impacted,” said Gwala.

The government said it has been assisting victims in restoring their lives in collaboration with social partners and private donors.

Meanwhile, financial relief is also being considered for victims of the recent floods in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in the Eastern Cape.

According to Eastern Cape police spokesperson Priscilla Naidu, severe storms and heavy rains on June 1 battered and caused extreme damage in many areas of the metro, in particular Kwanobuhle, Kariega, Walmer, Blue Horizon Bay and Kamesh.

A total of 10 people drowned or died, police said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the victims recently, and said national and provincial authorities, as well as civic organisations, were working to assist the affected communities.

The Mercury