Massive relief operation under way to help victims of the storm

Published Jun 6, 2024


Following the devastating storm that hit oThongathi on Monday, disaster management workers, non-governmental organisations and volunteers are out in large numbers providing meals, clothing and other basic necessities to bring comfort to the injured and displaced.

At least 11 people died, scores were left injured and hundreds homeless as a combination of heavy winds and rains battered parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

As NGOs, community members, Eskom, eThekwini Municipality and the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs try to assist with humanitarian relief and repairs to infrastructure, some of those affected are afraid to leave their damaged homes unguarded.

Dorine Biyela, 65, was reluctant to leave her belongings unattended after the storm damage. While she spent the night at the Newtown Community Hall, her 14 children and grandchildren stayed at home to safeguard their property.

“I have no choice but to stay in this hall because my house was destroyed,” Biyela said.

“When others received blankets and mattresses I did not get any. I am sleeping on a grass mat with a small blanket. At night it gets very cold and my bones cannot stand the hard cold floor.”

Biyela said her children would not leave their home unattended.

“There is only one room that was not destroyed after the storm so all my children and grandchildren sleep there to keep our belongings safe,” she said.

Many residents in Newtown said they did not sleep on Tuesday night but lit fires to keep warm.

Khombisile Mtshali, 50, on Wednesday said she had to make sure someone watched her belongings before she gent to the hall to get a warm meal.

“We started a large fire and sat beside it all night because we could not leave our belongings outside. We sat on bricks and chairs outside with my mother and children aged three and six.

“After the 3-year-old and I are done eating, we go home and my mother and the 6-year-old will come and get food here while I look after our home. That is our life for the next few days,” said Mtshali.

Different civil society organisations, private companies and NGOs have come out in large numbers to assist the affected people with food, blankets, clothing and other necessities.

NGO Sewa International was distributing bread and sandwiches to the communities.

Sewa International’s NishBhagwandinaan said their area of focus was based on what was needed most urgently.

“Today’s project is bread and tomorrow during the course of the day we will be distributing lunch hampers and food hampers,” said Bhagwandin. “As soon as the immediate need has been taken care of, with regards to food and water, then we will start with building material. We will offer tents and other temporary measures until people get their homes built.”

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KZN Social Development MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza and eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda visited the family of Sisana Nyawo, 39, who was hit by a tree when she arrived home to get her children to safety.

Nyawo’s mother, Neli Zikhali, said her daughter had left the Magwaveni area but on the day of the storm she hurried to fetch her children.

KZN Social Development MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza and eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda visited the family Sisana Nyawo. Nyawo died when a tree fell on top of her outside her home in eMagwaveni when she had come to the area to pick up her children. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

“When she was getting out of the car, a tree fell next to the car. When she tried to run away another tree fell and hit her,” Zikhali said in tears.

The MK Party said it had visited the area on Wednesday and found that while people were in need of blankets, water and food, they also needed building materials so they could repair their homes.

Khoza said the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and Kaunda were helping people to get hot meals

“We also thank the NGOs and volunteers who are assisting. People lost their clothes and tomorrow Sassa will assist with getting school uniforms for children. We also want to help people who lost their ID documents,” said Khoza.

They will assist those who lost family members

The Mercury