Hundreds of familes have been left homeless and many roads and streets in Durban and other coastal areas north of the city right up to Kosi Bay were turned into raging rivers as tropical storm Irina wreaked havoc across the province at the weekend.
Although Irina had been downgraded from a cyclone to a tropical storm, it still remained a threat to the coast, police and disaster services warned on Sunday night.
Stalled cars were a common sight as stormwater caused drains to overflow.
The M4 was closed at the La Mercy bridge and traffic was diverted to Beach Road as the lagoon level rose.
The weather services said the gale-force south-westerly winds (65km/h) were expected on Monday. There was a warning of very rough seas with waves up to 6m.
The weather system was likely to remain over open water between Maputo and Richards Bay for the next 24 hours, according to the National Joint Operational Centre.
“A combination of very rough seas, marine storm surge, as well as gale-force winds are likely to threaten the coastline,” said police spokesman Colonel Vishnu Naidoo.
Commercial and recreational fishing should be alerted to this threat.
The National Joint Operational Centre, which is co-ordinating response to the storm, includes the police, the SA Weather Service, disaster management, the army and government departments such as health.
In Jozini in the Nyawushadi area, a house collapsed on a woman, breaking her legs, after floods hit northern KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday morning.
Co-operative governance spokesman Vernon Mchunu said emergency services were trying to get through mud and dirt to reach Phumaphi Makhaye, 56.
Disaster teams were still quantifying the damage, but he estimated that at least 300 houses had been flooded.
Four men were reported missing in flooded rivers in northern KZN, but by Sunday night they were found, he said.
At the Kennedy Road shack settlement in Durban, 10-year-old Sindi Gwazi was injured when an informal house collapsed on her, trapping her beneath the rubble and mud.
Her neighbour, Khethiwe Vundisa, said that the shack had collapsed at 9am on Sunday.
“I heard her mother crying for help and the whole community gathered to help. We could not find her because there was a lot of mud.”
Neighbours gathered with spades and buckets. “We scooped the sand and water out of the shack and found her. An ambulance arrived and rushed her to hospital.”
In other parts of the settlement, residents scooped the water from their waterlogged homes in a desperate attempt to save belongings.
A few shacks were unstable and owners had to be evacuated because of fears that their homes might collapse.
Community spokesman Hilton Sibiya told The Mercury that 53 people had reported to him that their homes had been flooded.
“I have asked all the people who were affected to come to the community hall,” he said.
More people would be affected if the rains continued. “The shacks are unstable. They can collapse at any time.
“The people who will be sleeping at the hall do not have blankets and beds. And the number will rise, so I do not know if the hall will be able to accommodate everyone,’’ Sibiya added.
On the Bluff, floodwaters gushed into the home of Koogan Naidoo, damaging furniture and other valuables after a stormwater drain overflowed.
“I was watching TV with my wife and it was raining a lot,” he said.
The rain forced a manhole outside his home to overflow and a large portion of Frederick Avenue was flooded.
When The Mercury visited Naidoo’s home on Sunday, disaster management workers were still trying to stop the drain from overflowing and sandbags had been placed to divert the water.
Large trees surrounding his property had fallen over and broken the surrounding wall of the house.
By Sunday night, Co-operative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube said disaster and emergency officers were still out rescuing people. She urged motorists to exercise caution and heed instructions.
She met traditional leaders, community workers, mayors and councillors to start an awareness campaign so that “there is no resistance when we advise people to evacuate danger zones”.
Rescue operations were under way in many of the Zululand coastal areas.
“At the moment we are hard at work assisting people whose houses have been flooded. Moves are being made to also evacuate others,” said Dube.
The provincial government was organising temporary housing units for displaced families.
A forecaster at the SA Weather Service’s Durban office, Wesani Maluleke, said that since the heavy rains started on Saturday night, some parts of the province had received more than 100mm of rain.
“The storm seems to be moving more south-east during the week ahead, only affecting the coastal parts of KZN. The rain is currently widespread across the province.
“By Monday, we will experience less rain. On Tuesday, the province will experience substantially less rain, if any.
“And, with conditions improving, by Wednesday, the rain could be clearing.
“The pattern of the storm seems to be moving away from the South African coastline, but there is a 60 percent chance of rain on Friday,” Maluleke said.
Airports Company SA’s Durban spokesman, Colin Naidoo, said the weather had not interrupted flights at King Shaka Airport. - The Mercury
* If you have pictures showing storm damage from cyclone Irina, e-mail them to [email protected]