FLOODING FEARS: Nombuso Nene a resident in Amauti near Nanda township north of Durban walking to her house. Picture: TEBOGO LETSIE
As South Africa’s north-east coastline battened down hatches ahead of tropical cyclone Irina, Eastern Cape residents were fearful the extreme weather would hit the south-east coast.
The SA Weather Service confirmed it had been inundated with calls yesterday following rumours that Irina, heading south down the Mozambique channel, would move to East London and Port Elizabeth.
An official at the Port Elizabeth weather centre said the weather office had received numerous calls from frantic members the public, but said the storm was not expected to reach so far south.
“The cyclone will not be hitting Port Elizabeth. There will, however, be heavy rainfall in East London. All we can expect is a cold front [later this week] and rain that is associated with that system.
“We have received many calls about the cyclone, because when something like this happens, people panic and get worked up. The chances of Port Elizabeth having a cyclone are very slim.”
Rescue teams, emergency workers and the police worked around the clock yesterday to help KwaZulu-Natal residents as the fierce tropical storm battered the province.
Irina hit the KwaZulu-Natal coast on Saturday night and, though the storm was downgraded from a cyclone, heavy rain, flooding and high seas were predicted to continue throughout last night.
At least one person was killed as a direct result of the floods, several were injured and hundreds displaced in low-lying areas. Tourists at exclusive lodges were warned to stay in.
Another five people, four adults and an infant, were killed in two accidents in Richards Bay and near Vryheid that authorities blamed on wet roads.
In Jozini, in Umkhanyakude municipality, 56-year-old Phumaphi Makhaye’s house collapsed on her on Saturday night, breaking her leg and fracturing her pelvis.
Her neighbour, Sihle Mathe, a relative, said he was called at 2am by the injured woman’s neighbours and had to comfort her and her daughter, Bongiwe, until the ambulance came — six hours later.
“The rain was relentless and even though it’s a distance to her place, we had to walk there after neighbours called to tell us what had happened.”
A 24-year-old woman was killed when a wall fell on her in Umlazi and an 11-year-old girl was in a serious condition after a wall in Chatsworth collapsed.
Big waves battered the coast and the eThekwini municipality evacuated residents in Quarry Heights, Sydenham, after the Palmiet River overflowed.
In northern KwaZulu-Natal, Kosi Bay’s Thobeka Backpackers owner Merrilyn Morris said the storm felt like a “cyclone”.
“Here on the coastline we feel the brutal force if it. The winds were gusting [and strong] enough to take out my large mango tree by its roots.”
Tourists were stuck indoors and bridges were submerged.
Last night, the SA Weather Service issued a fresh warning of heavy rains and high seas from Kosi Bay to the coastal areas in the Eastern Cape.
The storm has been compared to Cyclone Domoina, which killed 214 people in 1984 when it struck Mozambique, Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal.
St Lucia resident Rita van der Merwe said: “It was bad, but not nearly as demonic as Domoina.”
Emergency and technical services workers are assessing and clearing the damage. — Additional reporting by Andile Ndlovu and Sapa
Article source: http://www.dispatch.co.za/news/article/2991