'God can let you just vanish within seconds'

Township areas outside Klerksdorp will be without power on Monday night following the weekend’s freak storm that damaged about 1 900 homes.

They will also be without water, except for what authorities were scheduled to provide in tankers. And many houses will remain without roofs.

Many residents of Jouberton and Alabama took off work on Monday to hammer back sheets of corrugated iron on their roofs while inside they mopped up water that had seeped through ceilings, collapsing them in many instances.

Outside the humble houses, mattresses, schoolbooks, clothes and cushions lay spread out in the hot sun as people took off work to get their lives back in order.

Reminders of the chaos that started at about 2pm on Sunday were uprooted trees and sheets of mangled corrugated iron strewn about the streets or wrapped around electricity poles.

“It happened within seconds,” said Reginald Galane, a pensioner whose home suffered damaged.

“God can let you just vanish within seconds.”

North West acting Premier Reverend OJ Tselapedi and Matlosana mayor China Dodovu spent Monday afternoon on a tour of the path of damage caused by what some locals have nicknamed “the tsunami”.

“The buzzword right now is assessment,” Tselapedi told a press conference.

“Engineers are very busy looking at the damage. After the assessment we shall recommend [to the national government] what should be done.”

His entourage visited the family of an elderly woman killed by a flying sheet of corrugated iron while she was inside the sanctuary of a prayer meeting.

It also visited the Presbyterian church where the accident happened.
All that remained of its rafters were spiky protrusions; the rest of the roof had disappeared. Chunks of brick-wall rubble filled the space meant for pews.

At least four places of worship in Jouberton were damaged.

Tselapedi announced that about 300 people were treated at hospital and that most had been discharged.

Among those admitted was two-year-old Bithatelo Maputle, whose father carried him 8km to hospital.

“I ran with my child. Eight kilometres. I was confused. There were no taxis,” he said, fearing that the infant could have suffered brain damage when the corrugated iron of their shack collapsed.

Nearby, three generations of the Mbuyazwe family hid in a wardrobe as the freak weather, which lasted half an hour, tore off their roof and caused their ceiling to collapse. The house flooded in the rainwater.

Douglas Mbuyazwe (18), a Grade 10 pupil at a local high school, said he tried to close the windows of his home when he saw the storm coming.

“I couldn’t close them. Then I saw the walls crack in front of me.”

He said he could not even get outside the house to alert people living in shacks on the property of the looming danger.

“I woke up my mother and my sister and I brought them and two babies into the wardrobe.”

As they sat inside, the ceiling above them gave in and the floor flooded around them.

Douglas´s mother, Elizabeth, remembered buying the wardrobe years ago at a pawn shop. “It was sometime before the hospital strike of 1992.”

She works in the kitchens at the local Tshepong Hospital.

Near her, Pinkie Morotolo walked through her wet house, scarred with damaged ceilings as relatives hammered away at roof repairs above.

“I was sitting in the house when I noticed the storm. Then big hail stones came down, breaking the windows. Then water started to come down through the ceilings.”

By lunchtime on Monday she and her family had scooped out more than 30 buckets of water that had flooded the floors.

A nurse assistant at the local clinic, Morotolo has no insurance.

“My mother built this house with money from selling things as a hawker.”

The Matlosana Council area, incorporating the mining towns of Stilfontein, Klerksdorp and Orkney, is more used to disturbances coming from underground.

An earth tremor damaged houses in Stilfontein in 2005.

“We are used to earth tremors,” said school principal Steve Senyane. “We don’t expect this from the sky.”—Sapa

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