Pietermaritzburg residents face bleak Christmas after storm left a trail of destruction

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It promises to be a bleak Christmas for many after a number of houses and businesses were badly damaged during a severe thunderstorm in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday afternoon. The Msunduzi Municipality says its emergency control centre received calls from residents requesting assistance with flooding, fallen trees, and damaged roofs.

A number of businesses have taken to social media to announce that they will be closing until further notice due to the storm. Thunderstorms also lashed Ndwedwe, Maphumulo, and Mandeni on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.

Mopping-up operations are underway in Pietermaritzburg. Heavy winds, accompanied by hailstones as big as golf balls hit the city, causing major damage as roofs were blown off and trees uprooted.

In places, the hail lay so thick, that it resembled snow. A downpour of rain also left roads flooded.

The Msunduzi Municipality says they will call an urgent council meeting to declare a state of disaster.

Msunduzi Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla says more than 80 houses have been damaged by the storm.

“We are busy assessing the situation. We currently identified 83 households from various wards that have been affected but the investigation is continuing. We will call an urgent meeting with council and declare a state of disaster as this is the second time we are being hit by a severe storm damaging storms. Of course we have to just liaise with Cogta.”

In the video below severe storm lashes parts of KZN

Many families have been left destitute after their homes were damaged by the storm. These homeowners say their lives have been destroyed.

“I was in here when this happened, all I saw was darkness, then my electricity meter exploded and my roof blew off and hail came in. I’m very heartbroken because in two days’ time it is Christmas and I won’t even have food, let alone a place to sleep.”

Another resident says; “It just became dark and started raining, then the roof came off and large hailstones fell in, the children hid in the cupboards and we were all trying to protect the one-month-old baby we have.”

KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance spokesperson, Senzo Mzila, says they have sent disaster management teams to assist the affected communities.

“MEC Sipho Hlomuka directed Disaster Management teams to conduct assessments in the Midlands area, Ndwendwe, Maphumulo, and Mandeni where a severe thunderstorm ripped through these areas causing severe damage to households and properties. Teams are continuing with assessments, so far there has been no report of any fatality in all of these incidents.”

The South African Weather Service issued another warning of heavy rainfall on Thursday afternoon in large parts of the province. This could lead to localised flooding and mudslides.

KwaZulu-Natal has been experiencing severe weather recently :