By: Jeff Wicks And Taschica Pillay
Severe storms in KwaZulu-Natal have claimed their first fatality as relentless rain and wind forced some schools to suspend learning.
A policeman died after a container collapsed onto a police vehicle in Maydon Wharf in Durban on Tuesday morning‚ said Rescue Care’s Garrith Jamieson.
“Unfortunately one policeman passed away and the other policeman was extricated‚” Jamieson said.
Video footage showed that part of the roof had collapsed at Durban’s King Edward VIII Hospital‚ where flooding had occurred.
Scores of motorists were stuck in gridlock along the south coast highway near Isipingo‚ Amanzimtoti‚ the Bluff‚ Wentworth and Umlazi after roads were flooded.
Residents posted videos and pictures on social media of cars floating away‚ windows and tiles flying off houses‚ trees being uprooted and walls collapsing.
Emergency and rescue workers are being stretched as they respond to dozens of calls for help‚ including a mud slide across the N2 between Amanzimtoti and Seadoone Road.
In Port Shepstone‚ emergency staff had their hands full following reports of flooding in the town‚ while in Kokstad workers responded to a reported drowning.
On Tuesday morning paramedics rescued passengers in a minibus taxi struck by rising water on the N2.
Jamieson said medics had rushed to the scene to find the packed minibus listing to one side.
“The taxi had been driving through the rising waters when it got stuck. Paramedics helped the occupants of the taxi to safety. The road has been completely closed‚” he said.
Paramedics also responded to a call in Kingsway Road‚ where gushing water had trapped occupants of a house. The occupants were safely rescued.
This follows a night of heavy rain‚ with rivers in Pietermaritzburg and Durban breaking their banks.
Police search and rescue technicians were called to the Madiba low-level bridge in Sobantu outside Pietermaritzburg after a man was swept away by the water.
The officers‚ with the aid of a sniffer dog‚ searched the banks of the river but were unable to find the man. The search was halted by an approaching storm and diminishing light and is expected to resume when it is safe.
City engineers from the eThekwini Municipality are also assessing damage at various locations.
Police search and rescue emergency workers are en route to the Prince Mshyeni hospital in Umlazi after a call that part of the roof collapsed.
The South African Weather Service issued a warning of gale force winds between 70 and 90km per hour between Durban and Mozambique in the next 24 hours.
Warnings have been issued of severe thunderstorms‚ with a risk of hail.
A weather spokesman said: “Between 10am and 11pm on Tuesday more than 50mm of rain is expected which may lead to localised flooding over the southern interior and the coast. Always expect lightning when thunder roars. Stay indoors.”
Meanwhile the eThekwini municipality warned residents to stay indoors until the storm passes.
The municipality said the disaster management call centre was experiencing high call volumes.
Residents are requested only to call the centre for emergencies on 031 361 0000.
This is a developing story.