Triple tragedy for KZN man who lost wife, daughter & grandchild in the floods
Cyril Maphumulo watched in silence on Thursday as the body of his three-year-old daughter, Nolwazi, was pulled from the reeds flanking the Isipingo canal south of Durban.
Moments earlier rescuers had found the body of his 18-month-old granddaughter, Hope, tangled in the vegetation.
The last to be found was his wife, Nompumelelo. As her body was pulled from piles of flotsam on Friday morning, a stone's throw from their home, he wept."I couldn't let myself sleep until the body [of my wife] was found. I was relieved when the children were found ... I had been praying to God and to my ancestors to help us find them all so I can bury them," he said.
The three had been fleeing their home on Tuesday when their car was swept up in floodwaters.
Torrential rains fell across KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday during the "supercell" storm - an intense weather phenomenon characterised by a deep rotating updraft. It is associated with tornadoes, large hail, strong winds and flash flooding.
The storm battered the province and has claimed the lives of 14 people, including the Maphumulo girls and Nompumelelo.
Maphumulo recounted the last conversation he had with his wife, when he called her and told her to flee the rising waters.
"I said to my wife that if the rains get stronger she must take the vehicle and go ... don't wait.
"She tried to leave and she managed to get as far as the driveway because her car was found in the middle of the road. I think the car couldn't go any further and she got out and tried to run with the children," he said.
BODY AMONG THE WRECKAGE
Police search and rescue personnel, guided by a sniffer dog, found Nompumelelo's body wedged between corrugated iron sheeting that had been washed downstream by the torrent."I am trying to be a man and trying to be strong for my other children," Maphumulo said.
The heartache was also felt in Umlazi, where Lindokuhle Kweyama's 19-month-old baby, Okuhle, was washed away by floodwaters from a river that broke its banks in DX5 section.
The toddler was swept down the surging rapids after being carried from her crèche by a scholar who had tried to save her.
The youth left Okuhle on the bank of the river and went back for other children, but the water rose and swept her downstream.
Rescue personnel from across the province are still searching for many who disappeared during the storm.
MASSIVE REPAIR BILL
On Thursday, KwaZulu-Natal premier Willies Mchunu declared the province a disaster area.
His spokesman, Ndabe Sibiya, said damage to state infrastructure and equipment was likely to run into billions of rands.
"Education [damage to schools] alone is R136.5-million and more reports are coming in. In the health sector we need to consider repairing equipment and rebuilding of physical infrastructure ... that is a lot. Medical equipment is expensive and often it is imported," he said.
More than 133 schools have been affected, including 52 high schools, some of them being used as matric marking centres.
KwaZulu-Natal education spokesman Kwazi Mthethwa said plans would be made for matrics whose schools had been damaged to write their exams elsewhere.
"No school has completely collapsed. The technical assessment teams are on the ground and they will advise whether it is feasible for us to get interim intervention in the form of mobile classrooms," said Mthethwa.
The weather service said Durban had 108mm of rain on Tuesday, with 65mm falling in one hour in the morning...