In Pictures: Tornado rips apart Tongaat

CAUGHT in the eye of the tornado that ripped through Tongaat were two contractors doing maintainance work at Seatides Combined Secondary on Monday afternoon.

Jerald Rangasamy and with his team were fixing a burst pipe at the school around 4.10pm when a heavy downpour accompanied by hailstones hit the area.

He said his first reaction was to immediately get his team to pack up and prepare to leave.

As he was running towards his vehicle parked under the school shelter, the rain eased up. 

“My first thought was to find refuge inside my car. Within minutes after getting into the car, I saw windows, tiles, doors and all sorts of debris flying,” he said.

Rangasamy said he had to remain inside his vehicle until what turned out to be a devastating tornado had passed.

He said the whirlwind lasted for about five to seven minutes.

Still reeling with shock, Rangasamy said what he saw will always linger his mind. “I am grateful to be alive. I am still traumatised. What I saw yesterday still haunts me.”

Another contractor Vernon Govender said he was doing maintenance when he saw a black cloud coming towards the school.

Unaware he was watching an approaching tornado, he took out his phone to record the incident, not realising it was coming towards him.

“It never struck my mind that it was a tornado, I assumed it was just heavy rain,” he said.

Govender, who was injured in his head said he had to hold on tightly to a pole next to the school tuckshop to save his life.

School Governing Body member Puven Naidoo said every single block at the school has been damaged, with six torn down completely.

“All the tiles and ceilings are out, windows and doors are broken, school material is destroyed. All storeroom, textbooks, stockroom, IT lab is destroyed; all the computers are gone.”

Naidoo said the school is waiting for the Department of Education to give them a way forward

School principal Kola Govender said assessments by Public Works are under way to  determine if anything can be salvaged or if the site will be condemned.

He said for now, they are looking at interim options, including clearing the school ground to accommodate mobile classrooms.

Govender said disaster management teams and the provincial premier are expected to visit the school to assess the damages.

Not far from the school, in Desainagar, 70-year old Rokmaney Ramalu was alone at home when the disaster ripped through her home, leaving windows, doors broken and damaging roof tiles.

She said she recalls hearing what sounded like an airplane taking off, and massive bangs.

“I peeped outside the door and all I saw was chairs flying. Even inside the house, wall frames and books were flying. I held on to the door and prayed to my Gods,” said Ramalu.

Meanwhile, in Sandfields, a Mitchford Primary School teacher, Renisha Gounden, 39, who had just renovated and refurbished her home after the April 2022 floods, tragically died after a wall fell on her.

In another tragedy, an 18-month-old toddler, Nayiwa Ngema, died after a wall also collapsed on her in New Town.

Another child, three-year-old Mkhululi Jali was killed in Magwaveni.

Another five adults were also killed in the storm:  Bule-lani Ndlela, 34, of  Rajkumars; and Magwaveni residents Fundiswa Gingqi, 40, Bongani Sikhakhane, 28, Sisanda Nyawo, 41, and Thulani Ngubane, 50.

Tongaat SAPS said eight deaths have been recorded so far. including a three-year-old child and five adults aged 41, 28, 39, 40 and 50. 

At Jan Roz, a 70-year-old woman was stuck for hours inside her collapsed home, until she was rescued unharmed.

At Magwaveni, there was devastation. Several homes had been smashed to the ground. A large number of residents in Magwaveni were injured when the walls of their homes collapsed during the storm and they were rushed to nearby clinics and hospitals.

The tornado left a trail of destruction through La Mercy, Seatides, Fairbreeze, Jan Roz, Sandfields, Magwaveni, Desainagar and Belvedere.

Ethekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and KwaZulu-Natal premier Nomusa Dube Ncube visited some of the affected areas.

Meanwhile, religious, outreach organisations, churches, and businesses have rallied with community members to offer assistance ranging from clothing to food.

Vishwaroop Temple with the help of several organisations from as far afield as Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg have put together food parcels and clothing which will be distributed to victims.

Grace Family Church missions, GraceAid and Container Ministries, are  accepting essential emergency supplies at the Cornubia Campus and Ballito Campus, including blankets, bottled water, tinned food, clothes.

Tongaat Child and Family Welfare Society appeals for non-perishables. Drop off at Tongaat Child Welfare offices or contact social workers on 032 944 1514.

La Montagne is also a drop off point for essential goods, dry goods, tin goods, blankets, and infant and child essentials. It will  liaising with the disaster management bodies for distribution of these items. Contact Mandy Rootman on 082 493 8646. 

*Images and story from Dolphin Coast Mail

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