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PICS: Places of worship remain closed after KZN flood devastation

The Umhlatuzana Temple in Chatsworth after the floods.

The Umhlatuzana Temple in Chatsworth after the floods.

Published May 20, 2022

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Durban: The floods in KwaZulu-Natal not only destroyed lives, homes and belongings but also left many communities without places to worship.

The 70-year-old Umhlatuzana Temple in Chatsworth was one such religious site.

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Rodney Moodley, the temple chairperson, said they were unable to observe the religious festival of Kavady last month. He said the Northdene Temple subsequently allowed devotees to carry Kavady at its premises.

The Umhlatuzana Temple is located on a bank next to the Umhlatuzana River. The Mother's Temple on the property was washed away when the river burst its banks. The Shiva and Vishnu temples remained though.

The wash area at the Springfield Siva Subramaniar Temple has been cordoned off due to cracks in the foundation.

Bronze Navagrahas statues and a 70-year-old bell tower were also washed away.

"There are five murthis (statues) in the Mother's Temple that we can't see. In addition, the hall and caretaker's quarters are damaged. Our stockroom, which had several hundred Kavady prayer items, was destroyed."

Moodley said they were waiting on their insurance company to assess the damage.

"Only then will we know the true extent of what was lost. Right now everything is untouched. We also await feedback from the eThekwini Municipality on what they intend to do about the river bank and the bridge."

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In the interim, the temple management is looking to secure land near the temple property to rebuild on higher ground.

"We do not want to build in the same place and have the same thing happen."

The temple land is 2 500 square metres.

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"A devotee gave us half of his land at the back of the temple. There is more land adjacent to the temple. One owner offered to sell the land to us. There is also an abandoned plot. We are trying to locate the owner."

While they are trying to focus on rebuilding, Moodley said they still had to contend with theft.

"Criminals have used this tragedy as an opportunity to steal our metal and copper pipes that were laid bare during the floods."

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Following the floods, the temple received about R150 000 in donations from the community to help rebuild. "We are also planning a fundraising drive."

- THE 122-year-old Shri Siva Subramaniar Alayam in Verulam is also closed after the Umdloti River burst its banks.

Professor Chandru Kistan, a temple trustee, said the premises were inaccessible.

He said the boundary walls collapsed and the temple was flooded. The murthis are submerged in knee-high mud and debris.

"The sludge prevents any access into the temple's property. A Navagara shrine that was completed last year and worth R200 000 was damaged as well as the dining and centenary halls. It is heartbreaking to see the devastation in a temple I have worshipped in since a child. The office furniture was damaged and valuable documents, like our receipt book, were soiled by the muddy waters."

Kistan said mop-up operations were difficult as the area has had no water.

A further issue was theft. He said criminals broke the temple's locks on the gates and the windows to steal chairs, pots, gas tanks and burners.

"There was no one to keep a watch, so criminals were having a field day."

Kistan said the caretaker and his family were relocated after their home was flooded. His child was rescued by members of Reaction Unit South Africa. He said the insurance company did not want to pay for most of the damage.

"They are making excuses that we are situated in a low-lying flood plain. So we are going through a bad patch. We hope the public can assist in whatever way they can, even if it means helping us clean up."

- THE dining hall, cooking and wash area at the Siva Subramaniar Temple in Springfield was also damaged.

A tree at the Springfield Siva Subramaniar Temple was uprooted, and damaged the temple’s main water pipe.

"Due to the landslides, these areas are a no-go zone. The building has cracked and moved and the waterline was damaged,” said Segie Manickum, a devotee.

He said they relied on donations and that the temple did not have insurance.

- MEANWHILE, Paphos Fellowship in Kharwastan, Chatsworth, has had to rent an alternate building for its 400 congregants to worship.

Dr Ronald Veerapen, the pastor of the church, said it was his faith that gave him the strength he needed. “We are just trusting God to see us through.”

He said on the morning of April 12, their security company informed them about a mudslide. Veerapen said one of the municipality's stormwater pipes had burst and flooded the church.

"The density of rain also took out a rock-solid bank. Our carpets were soiled and need to be replaced and the sound system is damaged. The area where we hold services is destroyed and the carport was washed away."

Flood damage at Paphos Fellowship in Chatsworth.

He said they have asked the municipality to fix the open sewer.

"But they don't want to come out. The general maintenance of the sewer pipes was a problem before the floods and a short-term solution was always provided but not long term. What happens in the future if the city does not take accountability?"

He said an insurance assessor had visited the church.

"We were advised to not do anything. We have to be grateful that we are not worse off. When we balance it out, we are grateful there was no loss of life."

The eThekwini Municipality did not comment at the time of publication.

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