In December, KwaZulu-Natal was hit by a deluge of heavy rain accompanied by thunderstorms and lightning, causing a devastating natural disaster resulting in the loss of lives and leaving behind grieving families and loved ones. The tragedy highlights the importance of disaster preparedness and the need for timely and effective response measures to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

By Staff Writer

KwaZulu-Natal suffered a series of severe weather events in December, leading to widespread devastation and loss.

The province experienced intense thunderstorms, lightning strikes, and heavy rainfall, which tragically resulted in the loss of 31 lives, with others still missing. The storms caused extensive damage to homes and infrastructure, leaving communities in profound distress.

Despite the tireless efforts of volunteers and emergency services to provide aid to the affected communities, the magnitude of the catastrophe was insurmountable.

Two people suffered tragic accidents on New Year’s Eve. One man was struck by lightning in Eshowe, while a 64-year-old drowned while swimming on a south coast beach.

More than 600 households were affected, and over 140 dwellings were destroyed, according to preliminary reports from the provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).

During the floods on Christmas Eve, Ladysmith in the uThukela district was hit the hardest, resulting in 23 fatalities and significant damage to over 100 houses. Siboniso Mngadi, the spokesperson for KwaZulu-Natal Cogta, stated that the uMgungundlovu district had the most damaged homes.

Two deaths were reported, and one person is missing after a car was swept away in the uMsunduzi River in Pietermaritzburg. Strong winds wreaked havoc in the King Cetshwayo district, causing extensive damage to over 40 homes and destroying multiple businesses in the Eshowe industrial area.

Mngadi also said that storms had affected the uMzinyathi district, causing damage to over 100 homes and resulting in one fatality. He stated that over 2,000 people experienced the impact, resulting in 21 displaced people.

“Since the beginning of these rains, we have been responding promptly, providing immediate disaster relief such as blankets, plastic sheeting and vouchers to affected families.

“We have also offered psychological support to the affected families through the Department of Social Development and assisted with burial arrangements. We have activated other sector departments such as human settlements, transport, and home affairs to co-ordinate assistance from these departments,”  Mngadi said.

During some assessments, a representative from the Presidency joined the KZN team to assess the kind of aid families may require from the government. Mngadi commended neighbours and relatives for accommodating those whose houses were destroyed or damaged.

” This helped to ensure that none of the victims has had to be housed in mass care centres or community halls.”

Mngadi also stated that the relevant authorities are taking steps to support the affected families. Disaster response teams have been sent to all areas to evaluate homes in anticipation of providing aid. He noted that they are working with other organisations to address the incidents. However, he expressed worry about the persistent rainfall, which hinders the assessment process.

Mngadi praised the commendable efforts of organisations actively searching for missing persons and providing disaster relief in response to the heavy rains.

He urged people who have missing family members to contact the authorities promptly.

Heavy rains are expected to continue, with Level 2 thunderstorm warnings issued for certain areas in KwaZulu-Natal. The department advised residents to stay indoors if it’s safe.

“As the festive holidays end, many people will be returning to work. Considering the weather conditions, we want to remind everyone to be extremely careful when driving. If possible, we recommend that people delay their trips until the weather improves,” advised Mngadi.

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