KZN storm death toll: 8

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government says eight reported deaths have now been confirmed following the thunderstorms that hit the province on Tuesday.

The provincial Departments of Health and Human Settlements on Wednesday held a media briefing on the impact of the mega-storm. According to the provincial government, there are still reports of missing people and further casualties cannot be ruled out at this stage.

In Nquthu municipality, two deaths have been reported, including an eight-year-old child, who was struck by lightning. A 46-year-old male drowned while crossing a low-lying river.

“In eThekwini, six casualties have been reported, including one municipal employee who died in Russell Street when a public toilet collapsed. One member of the South African Police Service (SAPS) died in Rottendam Road when a container fell on the vehicle. One child in KwaMakhutha died at Sewula School. Two Prince Mshiyeni patients died when a wall collapsed and one male in Isipingo died while trapped in a vehicle during flooding.

Many more people have sustained injuries, some of them serious, and all are being treated in various healthcare facilities.

The provincial government said it is working together with the eThekwini Metro and other affected municipalities to respond in efforts to alleviate the impact of violent storms and to bring the lives of the people affected back to normal.

Affected schools, healthcare facilities

Many people’s lives have been interrupted by displacement, power outages and severe damage to both public and private infrastructure. Schools and hospitals have experienced serious interruptions to their operations.

The flash flooding has also caused enormous damage to healthcare institutions largely in the eThekwini District.

At Addington Hospital, the roof was blown away at the Dental Block, which includes Gateway Clinic and casualty wards.

At RK Khan Hospital, the casualty section and resuscitation room were flooded. Patients have been moved into corridors from wards experiencing roof and window leaks.

At Wentworth Hospital, the Medical Outpatient Department (MOPD) was flooded. Part of the roof of various wards was blown off.

At St Aidans Hospital, the Administration Block was flooded. At King Edward Hospital, the MOPD, Out Patient Department (OPD), pharmacy and wards were flooded.

At Clairwood Hospital, the X-ray department had its roof blown off, equipment was damaged and various floors were flooded.

At Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, drains were flooded.

Other institutions affected include Ekuhlengeni Care Centre, whose administration and pharmacy sections were flooded.

KwaMashu Community Health Centre had its door blown off. Its emergency medical services were also not spared – its Wentworth base, administration block and communications centre were flooded. Trees also collapsed, damaging both private and State vehicles.

The provincial government has reiterated its call for people to keep indoors as it deals with the calamity.

Many schools were also disrupted by storms and pupils had to be sent home early. Government said a total of 42 schools were gravely affected. Nine of the affected school are high schools and the Department of Education has raised concerns about the upcoming matric examinations in these schools.

However, plans are underway to ensure that pupils from all affected schools will be able to sit their exams as per the set schedule.

Damaged infrastructure

The extent of damage to infrastructure includes flooded and blocked roads. At least 19 collapsed buildings and perimeter walls, blocked storm water drains and sewer lines, flooded buildings and households, and power outages as a result of electric cable damage.

Displaced communities have been temporarily accommodated in community halls such as the Montclair Community Hall, where they are receiving emergency relief assistance.

As many as 500 power outages were reported in eThekwini yesterday, many of them affecting large areas.

Municipal technical staff have been working round the clock to restore power supply to the affected areas through alternative networks.

Government has appealed to all private sector insurance companies to expedite the processing of claims to ensure that life in the communities and operations in businesses return to normal as soon as possible.

At this stage, the provincial government said it cannot confirm a formal declaration of disaster, as processes are underway to take stock of the damages.

“Once the assessments have been concluded, a comprehensive report will be assessed by the provincial executive in terms of its magnitude, impact and cost implications.

“Thereafter, a determination will be made whether to declare provincial or municipal disaster areas, or appeal to the national government to declare a national disaster area in terms of the applicable legislation,” the provincial government said in a statement.

Government thanked the provincial disaster management teams for their hard work and dedication to the welfare of the affected communities.

“Our gratitude also extends to various NGOs and individuals for their efforts in providing emergency assistance to those in distress. Our appeal is for these activities to continue.” – SAnews.gov.za

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