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12 Mar 2008 13:49
At least 20 people who were trapped in cars and homes by rising water levels during a heavy overnight downpour in Durban were rescued by the police’s search-and-rescue team.
“We used a police boat to move many people away from the Island Hotel in Isipingo and we assisted several others who were stuck in cars due to rising food water,” the unit’s commander, Captain Troy Alison, said on Wednesday.
Several Durban roads were closed on Wednesday after heavy overnight rains caused mudslides and deep pools.
The downpour affected, among others, the suburbs of Merebank, Umlazi, Chatsworth, Pinetown, Isipingo, Yellowwood Park, Amanzimtoti, Prospecton and Durban North.
Fire department divisional Commander Owen Singh said: “There had been several incidents throughout Durban in the flash floods. High levels of water had swept through several shack settlements and firemen had to rescue some motorists in Edwin Swales Drive, who were trapped by rising water.
The motorists were then taken to the fire station and sheltered temporarily as the heavy downpour continued.
ER24 spokesperson Derrick Banks said roads in Merebank were severely flooded and several cars had been submerged.
“There were also reports of walls collapsing and many car accidents were reported, but there were no serious injuries,” he said.
EThekwini metro police spokesperson Superintendent John-Thomas Tyala said mudslides had come down from road banks and on to busy roads.
“It was thick because a truck and car even got stuck in the mud and called for assistance,” he said.
In Merebank, there were reports of water levels so high that water was seeping into people’s homes, Tyala said.
He said the emergency services had advised residents to temporarily evacuate the area.
The Durban weather bureau said Merebank, in the Durban south basin, was one of the areas worst affected by the rains.
Metro police officer Inspector Deveneran Pillay, who lives in Merebank, said the area near the racecourse was completely submerged.
“People were helping each other, breaking walls to get people out of houses.
The water levels were up to 1,8m.
The emergency services could not be reached and neither could the ward councillor.
“No one picked up their [phones]. We tried to contact emergency services and disaster management and no one came out.”
Pillay said people were awake in the early hours of Wednesday assisting each other.
“It’s a disaster, a total disaster ... Pre-cast walls have fallen down and there is not one official to help these people.”
However, Tyala said the metro police had not received any reports of walls or roofs collapsing.—Sapa
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