WATCH | 'Scores injured' as tornado hits KwaZulu-Natal
A tornado left a swathe of destruction in New Hanover and Greytown, north of Pietermaritzburg, on Tuesday.
Residents of Mshwati district were hit hard by the tunnel of wind that blew through the area, uprooting trees in its wake.
The KZN department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) said disaster management teams had been dispatched to New Hanover amid fears of possible deaths and missing people.
"Scores of people" were injured, said the department, adding that homes and public infrastructure had been damaged.
“Preliminary reports received by the department indicate that a number of people who sustained injuries in the incident are receiving medical attention from surrounding hospitals. A number of homes have collapsed, countless trees have been uprooted and the electricity supply in the area has been interrupted. Our teams are working hard to provide support to the affected communities,” said Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka.
SA Weather Service (Saws) forecaster Wiseman Dlamini confirmed that there was a severe storm in the New Hanover and Greytown area. "It was a supercell and a tornado formed. I saw the severity of the storm on the radar and the wind speeds. It was on average about 120-135km per hour. This is very strong," he said.
Dlamini said the storm is now heading north, but he could not say with certainty whether the tornado would continue to those areas.
The province has been on high alert since Sunday. Four people have been confirmed dead since torrential rains and wind started battering the province.
Provincial Cogta spokesperson Senzo Mzila confirmed the tornado, saying he saw visuals of the storm hitting the area. He said they had not received any reports of injuries or casualties, adding that they were still being advised.
Several videos and images of the violent storm surfaced on social media, with some residents reporting that it hit Eskom facilities in the area.
Eskom KZN communications and stakeholder manager Joyce Zingoni confirmed that their infrastructure had been affected by the storm.
“The storm was in the area around Mersey substation, which led to the 33kV Mpolweni feeder to trip. Teams are on site and awaiting the storm to subside before evaluating the damage caused," she said.
"Customers in the Mpolweni area may have been affected and could have had power interruptions. Eskom will only be able to ascertain the affected customers after evaluation."
Zingoni urged customers to treat all installations as live, for safety reasons.
Meanwhile, motorists have been warned not to use the R33 between Pietermaritzburg and New Hanover because of the trees and debris on the road.
A “tornado-like” storm ripped through Newcastle in January 2018.