Roofs were uprooted, vehicles damaged and more than 200 people were treated for injuries after a tornado lashed parts of Ekurhuleni on Tuesday following a severe-weather warning.
And while there was panic when news spread that Tembisa Hospital had been hit by the unusual weather occurrence, Gauteng Department of Health spokesman Steve Mabona said the damage to the hospital was minimal.
The hospital treated hundreds of patients.
About 20 employees’ vehicles and three ambulances were damaged, Mabona said.
“We’ve managed to dispatch ambulances from neighbouring areas. We coped very well because almost everyone has been attended to.”
Three people were admitted to hospital after being rescued from the Phumulani Mall in Tembisa, where the roof was blown off.
Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management Services spokesman William Ntladi said that although the situation was calm, residents were advised to be on high alert.
“We have cordoned off the area where there is fallen debris. The roof was blown off and there was a lot of water leakage into the mall,” he said, adding that at least 10 cars and two trucks were damaged.
“Windows were blown off; trucks were blown off their wheels and onto their sides.”
Ntladi advised those living in low-lying areas to look out for flash floods, adding that people needing assistance could call the helpline at 10177 or 011 458 0911.
“We are urging pupils to go to school. We are also saying to parents that if their kids have to cross a spruit, they should accompany them.”
He said motorists should be on the alert for flash floods when driving over bridges. “If you can’t see the tar,” he warned, “rather use an alternative route.”
On Tuesday Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality spokesperson Themba Gadebe said: “The thunderstorm blew up roofs of about 200 households in Winnie Mandela, leaving an estimated 400 people displaced. Other areas damaged by the storm include 100 shacks and 20 houses in Hospital View. The City is providing salvage sheets as an interim measure to cover the roofs and to prevent further damages to the affected properties.”
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) said the tornado was caused by a cut-off low-pressure system that occurs when the west-to-east flow of air in the atmosphere is disturbed.
Although cut-off lows are common in the country between March and May, as well as September to November, SAWS said its warning encompassed the chance of a tornado.
“We had issued an alert for severe thunderstorms on Tuesday. Cut-off lows affect a larger area in the western interior which could go up to areas as far as Limpopo. It’s that unstable air in the atmosphere that caused the tornado,” said forecaster Venetia Phakula.
In KwaZulu-Natal, police search and rescue teams were hard at work on Tuesday, trawling through the trail of death and destruction left by the previous night’s heavy rains and flash floods.
Units from Durban, Pietermaritzburg and eMdloti spent most of Tuesday morning recovering the body of an unidentified man who had been buried beneath 2m of mud, when a landslide flattened several shacks in Cato Manor.
After that, they made their way to Silverglen Drive, in Chatsworth, where 62-year-old Priscilla Naidoo disappeared when her car was swept off a bridge.
The officers and their canine partners braved rushing waters and crumbling infrastructure in search of Naidoo.
Her body was eventually found on top of a mound of debris on the river bank.
Friends and family wept as, after a complex recovery operation, she was carried ashore.
The scene in Sneezewood Road, Glen Anil, where 62-year-old Brenda Lynn Scriven had gone missing, was equally emotional.
Video footage from a nearby business captured Scriven, of Sunningdale, being washed away from the road the night before.
She had been caught in a downpour while driving and had stopped at the side of the road and got out. There too, loved ones and community members gathered.
Accompanied by Marshall Security staff, they spent much of the morning scouring the area themselves. The emotional group comforted one another, looking on as police teams arrived and took over from them in the afternoon.
Scriven had, as of Tuesday afternoon, still not yet been found and the search had to be called off when the weather deteriorated and the police dogs became too tired to continue.
It was expected to resume on Wednesday morning, as were recovery operations in Umlazi.
KZN Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said the worst-hit areas in the province were in the Ugu district which prompted the setting up of emergency accommodation near Port Shepstone.
Homes had been submerged following the heavy rainfalls that had hit the province over the past few days and continued on Tuesday night.
Many parts of Durban such as Amanzimtoti, Inanda, Ntuzuma, KwaMashu, uMlazi and Yellowwood Park were also affected.
Another two people died when they were electrocuted in wards 29 (Cato Manor and Chesterville) and 30 (Sherwood and Mayville) in eThekwini.
Dube-Ncube advised motorists to heed all travel warnings issued by the traffic authorities. “We are frustrated when we hear reports of motorists who have attempted to drive across flooded roads despite all available warnings. They are not only putting their lives at risk but also those of their rescuers,” she said.
Incidents include flooded houses, collapsed houses and walls, mudslides, car accidents and near-drownings.
Sections of three major roads in the province were shut – the R56 between Kokstad and Matatiele, the R74 between Bergville and Harrismith and the R617 between Underberg and Boston. The N3, however, remained open.
The eThekwini Municipality spokeswoman, Tozi Mthethwa, said the city’s disaster management team had identified the flood incidents in eThekwini by Tuesday afternoon.
In uMlazi’s D-section one person was found trapped, and rescued. Other incidents included Palmiet Quarry Road West, Calendula Crescent, Mayville, Twilight Avenue, Avoca Hills, and Quarts Drive. No one was injured in those incidents.
Mudslides struck eZimbokodweni and Mayville. Thirty homes were washed away, but no fatalities were reported.
Areas in Tongaat, uMlazi, Bonela, Isipingo Hills and eManzimtoti were flooded. Two children were rescued after being washed away in eZingolweni near Umlazi Y-section.
The city said it had received more than 400 reports of power outages by Tuesday afternoon. Mayor James Nxumalo said the city was monitoring areas prone to flooding.
“We advise community members to refrain from crossing low-lying bridges and to avoid streams,” he said.
In Cape Town, nearly 10 000 people were affected by flooding in Philippi and Khayelitsha, and the weather service said conditions would probably continue until Thursday.
The weather service said localised flooding was expected to spread to the northern parts of the West Coast District and the southern parts of the Namakwa District.
Local government, environmental affairs and development planning MEC Anton Bredell said the concern was that the continuous heavy rainfall may lead to localised flooding in some areas.
“Some of the other associated risks during bad weather like this also include mudslides and informal settlement fires.”
Provincial as well as municipal disaster management centres remain fully operational, with officials on standby 24/7, he said.
[Source: The Star, The Mercury, Cape Argus and African News Agency]