Durban - IT HAS been almost three weeks since the floods wreaked havoc in KwaZulu-Natal. Statistics revealed more than 6 000 houses were destroyed, and those who could not find alternative accommodation were moved into community halls as a temporary measure.
Speaking to the Sunday Tribune this week, families who found themselves living in community halls, said while it was not the ideal situation, they were grateful to still be alive.
Thembi Dlamini, 63, who lived in the Thuthuka informal settlement in Tongaat, has sought temporary refuge at the Tongaat Town Hall, with her daughter, Nobuhle Dlamini. Their house got washed away by the floods on Monday, April 11.
“It was about 5am, we were sleeping and one of our neighbours who was sleeping in our house woke up to go to her house. She woke us up in a panic and by that time the water had filled the house and was half way up the wardrobe. We tried to leave, but the door was stuck because the water had forced its way inside. We screamed so that neighbours could hear us, they kept digging until they were eventually able to open the door,” said Dlamini.
She said she thought they were going to die inside.
“I’m a very light sleeper and I usually wake up early, but on that night I slept flat. Everything was soaking wet, we got out with only what we were wearing. Luckily, I have this small bag that’s always around my neck and I sleep with it, where I keep my phone, money and identity document. I got out with it. My family used to laugh at me and say that when I die, they must bury me with this bag because I always have it with me, but look at how it saved the most important things I need now,” Dlamini said.
She said she has been ill since that day.
Dlamini said living in the community hall has had its challenges.
“We’ve had a few cases where people steal. Just the other day someone stole my daughter’s sandals but that situation was discussed and we moved on, but I still guard my things. Besides the cold at night, we are treated well, we got this mattress and blankets here, and we eat three times a day,” she said.
For Nomalungelo Caluza, 49, the trauma of losing her home has been too much to bear. Caluza, her husband Funani, 49, and their two teenage sons are being housed at the Queensburgh Community Hall.
Part of their home, situated in “KwaSanti” near Pinetown, washed away during the floods. She said they tried everything to divert the water from gushing into their yard and home, but it wasn’t enough.
“We went to bed tired and I got up in the middle of the night thinking I was dreaming that we were drowning. I heard a hard thumping sound. And as we got up, the toilet was lifting off the ground and I just heard my husband shouting ‘run!’.
“I screamed for my kids and by this time, half of the house was moving apart. We ran for our lives. We lost a lot; clothes, a bed and a part of the house. On the other side of the house there was the other bed and the washing machine which filled up with mud. Luckily I had my handbag, so I still have my identity document and cards,” said Caluza.
She said they were still distraught from going through the ordeal.
“I haven’t felt such trauma in my life. Social workers have come here, but they don’t really talk to us like you do, sisi. We need to be asked how we feel. I’m very emotional and I feel the more we talk, the more we can start accepting and begin really rebuilding. It’s our souls that have been damaged more than anything,” Caluza.
She said the ideal situation was for them to be provided with land that was safe for building.
Nonhlanhla Dandala, 38, whose house was at uMlazi V section, has found a way to quieten the tragedy in her mind and has settled at the local section Community Hall with her baby, Ntobeko, and 12-year-old Sabelo.
“I was about to leave work on that Monday around 6pm and my neighbour called to say that my whole house just fell down. I tried to get there as soon as I could, but when I got there, my house was gone, I couldn’t get even one thing from inside,” said Dandala.
She said they went to get shelter at the home of her fiancé, but that too had been flooded.
Dandala said the next morning she went to the councillor’s office for help, and they were directed to the community hall.
“We were probably one of the few who got here first. It was still empty, but the following day we started receiving sponges, blankets and things started coming in like that,” she said.
Dandala said that although things were not as she wished, they at least had a roof over her heads.
“It’s been tough, there’s many of us here, and adjusting to that was not easy, but we are well taken care of. We get three meals a day, we are able to wash in private, there are showers too. There’s also prayers every day, so that also keeps us going,” she said.