Homes destroyed, residents left scrambling after tornadoes hit KZN towns
While communities in rural KZN were still trying to recover from severe weather and a tornado that left a trail of destruction in their wake two weeks ago, two more tornadoes destroyed houses and infrastructure in Utrecht on Friday and in Ulundi on Saturday.
This left disaster management teams struggling to cope in the wake of recent devastation.
On Saturday afternoon, a tornado ripped through eDlebe in Ulundi. No fatalities or serious injuries were reported, but residents had to scramble for cover as their homes were damaged.
An eDlebe resident, Mlungisi Buthelezi, said he felt his house shake.
“We were inside and felt it shaking. There are 11 of us who live in our four-bedroom house. One of the walls caved in. Fortunately, not much was damaged and we managed to sleep in the other rooms.
“We are waiting for the people from Cogta (Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs) to arrive and help us,” he said.
IFP councillor Nhlanhla Msimango said he had received several reports of homes being damaged when their roofs were blown off.
“It was very windy. Affected areas included eDlebe and KwaNongoma where roofs were blown away,” he said.
Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said several homes in Ulundi, Kwa- Nongoma, AbaQulusi and oPhongolo were damaged.
“In these areas, disaster management teams are still continuing with their assessment, and the number of houses that were damaged is expected to increase.
“So far, no loss of life or injuries have been reported,” he said.
Just hours before, a tornado struck the town of Utrecht, outside Newcastle, damaging several homes.
The most serious damage was recorded at the Waterval Correctional Centre.
According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services, Chrispin Phiri, 141 inmates from the facility’s Medium B section were transferred to nearby centres in Ncome and Estcourt.
He said four cells in Medium B and 46 houses, used by officials, were damaged. “Electricity and water supply at the centre have been disrupted but there are contingency plans in place.”
National Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, visited the prison on Saturday.
“We have normalised operations and our officials are working hard to ensure that the centre continues to operate even under difficult conditions,” he said.
Mabaso said teams were on the ground to render support.
“The department continues to provide interim relief to affected households, this includes the provision of tents, blankets, basic supplies and plastic sheeting,” he said.
SA Weather Service forecaster Ayanda Ntsele said the occurrences of tornadoes in KZN at this time of year were not unusual.
“What is unusual is how many are occurring in towns and built-up areas. Another point of concern was that tornadoes were taking place so close to each other.
“Usually when a tornado occurs, it happens in isolated areas and there’s no one to report it,” she said.
Ntsele said there were no weather alerts for KZN for the rest of the week, adding that there were no reports of rain forecast for Durban from today until Thursday.
Senior lecturer in physical geography at the University of the Witwatersrand, Dr Jennifer Fitchett, said the weather patterns in South Africa had been gradually changing over the past few decades.
“There’s been a shift in timing of seasons. The interior of South Africa is experiencing summer rainfall increasingly late in the year. The frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events like floods, droughts and storms are increasing,” she said.
Less than two weeks ago, a tornado ripped through Mpolweni in New Hanover near Pietermaritzburg. Trees were uprooted and homes were destroyed.
Two people were killed when a tornado struck their house. Eskom infrastructure was also damaged.