Lynnette Johns and Johan Schronen

The City of Cape Town has pledged R1 million to a disaster relief fund after the fierce storm with hurricane force winds which swept through the Cape Flats on Sunday.

President Thabo Mbeki will also be approached to declare the area an emergency area.

On Sunday night about 7 000 people made homeless by the storm were housed in community centres, mosques, churches and schools.

The gale ripped through Surrey Estate, Manenberg and Guguletu at 153km/h, flattening homes and leaving a long trail of destruction and despair about 5:30am on Sunday.

Several vehicles were wrecked, a truck was blown over, trees were uprooted while light and telephone poles snapped like twigs.

Roof materials were sucked up by the wind and blown as far as Cape Town International Airport where they landed on the runway. In Duinefontein Road, Manenberg, the gale-force wind wrapped corrugated-iron roof sheets around street poles as if they were made of tinfoil.

Precast concrete walls crumbled like dominoes. Heavy debris dented the roofs and flattened cars and bakkies - some of them were even buried.

Within minutes of the first call, the city's disaster management team swung into action. A huge team of medical, police, defence force and traffic personnel descended on the scene.

Ambulance staff ferried people to the nearby G F Jooste Hospital and later helped transport food into the area.

Scores of flats, especially top storey units, were demolished by the powerful wind.

Within hours hundreds of people had volunteered their services and many were making sandwiches for the destitute.

Premier Gerald Morkel, who flew over the area, decided it "should be declared a disaster area". This was echoed by Welfare Minister Zola Skweyiya who flew in from Pretoria to inspect the damage and pay his respects to bereaved families.