'I covered my child like a chicken‚' says mother who survived the storm

11 October 2017 - 08:08 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
A clean up underway. Putfontein, Benoni. The informal community behind the Putfontein Police Station was badly affected by a storm that ripped through parts of Johannesburg.
A clean up underway. Putfontein, Benoni. The informal community behind the Putfontein Police Station was badly affected by a storm that ripped through parts of Johannesburg.
Image: Alon Skuy

A 22-year-old mother has given a heart-rending account of how she protected her child as a storm ravaged her home in the Umgababa informal settlement on Gauteng’s East Rand on Monday afternoon.

“I kept thinking of the safety of my child. I am worried. I don’t know if we will be safe or if they will steal our things tonight. The rain was bad.

All I remember is that I had to protect my child‚ as a mother you are like a chicken trying to gather her chicks and protect them under her. It was not easy‚” said Nomsa Mazibuko.

“We are seven at home and I don’t know how we will sleep because we don’t have a roof. We need temporary shelter at least. We are grateful for the help by the truck [Gift of the Givers Foundation] but what will happen tomorrow? What will we eat? Last night we slept on wet beds and blankets.”

When TimesLIVE visited the area‚ members of the community had gathered at the Umyezane Primary School to receive relief packages from the Gift of the Givers Foundation‚ while the Red Ants were rebuilding and fixing about 30 shacks.

Children were running about aimlessly‚ seemingly unperturbed by the chaos.

Plastic mats‚ baby formula‚ a blanket‚ fruits‚ toilet paper and canned beans made up the packages meant to feed families for the day.

Members of the Ithemba Foundation were on the scene‚ distributing bread and juice to children.

Bed mattresses and blankets were drying out in the sun‚ along with furniture.

Gcibe Makhathini‚ a mother of three‚ said she had never seen anything like it. Her house was among 205 houses whose asbestos sheet roofs were blown away by the wind.

“I just saw my house falling apart. There was wind‚ then the rain became strong and‚ before I knew it‚ one room from my RDP house collapsed. I took out my children and ran with them to the outside room and‚ while we were running for safety‚ I saw corrugated iron flying in the air. It was a mess. My children are still traumatised‚” Makhathini said.

Mimi Lungu told TimesLIVE that the asbestos roofing affects their health.

“We have a problem with the asbestos. The more it flakes away‚ we get sinuses and it really affects our well-being. I wish they could get rid of it. I think the air blew away our roofs because they are weak. As we speak‚ we have no electricity‚ water or food‚” Lungu said. 

Only one of her four rooms was left standing.

“I have no television‚ as we speak. It was damaged. I don’t even want to talk about my furniture‚” said the saddened Lungu.

William Ntladi‚ Ekurhuleni disaster and emergency management services spokesperson‚ said the number of affected people might rise as assessments were still ongoing.

“As far as injuries are concerned‚ we are aware of seven minor ones‚ except for the 73-year-old woman who was hysterical after a master light was blown down and crashed on her shack yesterday. She has been hospitalised as we speak‚” Ntladi said.

“As least 60 houses with asbestos sheeting had their roofs blown off. The Red Ants are on the scene reconstructing about 36 shacks. Gift of the Givers is here too‚ helping with relief aid‚ especially food packages for the families affected.”

The emergency service is urging parents to accompany their children to and from school to avoid any of them drowning.

“The children might be crossing water channels. To avoid drowning‚ parents are asked to accompany them to school and fetch them. People are urged to be careful‚” Ntladi said.