Tales of terror as ‘tornado’ tears through Vaal township

565 shacks destroyed, 1000 people displaced


Christina Sikhondo was busy preparing supper for her three children when her shack collapsed. It had been hit by a tornado that struck the small informal settlement of Mamello in Vaal Marina on Monday evening.

IN TATTERS Christina Sikhondo’s shack collapsed around her and her children. She was cooking pap for the kids when the rain started. Then hail and heavy winds tore down her homePicture: Simphiwe Nkwali

“I was cooking pap for my children and it had just started to rain. The next thing I heard was the sound of big hailstones hitting my shack. Then there was a strong wind and by then my children were crying hysterically,” said Sikhondo, seated on a chair outside what was once her three-room shack.

Her shack was totally flattened by the tornado and all that could be seen was a double bed sandwiched between iron zinc sheets and planks. A pram and a bundle of clothes were the only items Sikhondo could salvage from the wreckage.

“I panicked and shielded my children when the wind got stronger. Everything started falling right in front of me.”

None of her children, the youngest only a year old, was injured in the tornado but she hurt her arm trying to shield them.

Sikhondo and many other shack dwellers whose homes were destroyed were receiving help from the Midvaal municipality, which had set up two help centres where people got food, water and medical treatment.

Residents spent most of Tuesday rebuilding their shacks. Others were trying to pick up what was left of their homes.

A group of elderly women and children gathered at a hall for breakfast served by
the SA Red Cross.

Nozika Nkutha, an elderly woman who said she did not remember her age, said she was cooking when the tornado ripped through her shack, ripping off the roof.

“I could not go out because I was scared and we ended up sleeping on the floor even though the roof was blown off,” she said.

While Mamello residents were picking up the pieces and trying to rebuild their shacks, Heather Sarkis, who owns a holiday home a few kilometres away from the township, was assessing the damage and taking photographs of the wreckage in her yard.

“We are used to storms but no one has prepared for a tornado. This is bad.”

Bongani Baloyi, the mayor of Midvaal, said about 565 shacks had been destroyed and 1000 people displaced. They hoped to finish rebuilding all the shacks on Wednesday.

He said 31 people suffered minor injuries.- Additional reporting Nico Gous



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