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STORM HAVOC

KZN tornado terror: The day a ‘snake in the sky’ smashed into Tongaat

KZN tornado terror: The day a ‘snake in the sky’ smashed into Tongaat
Nobuhle Sithole stands in the shattered remnants of her kitchen in Magwaveni, Tongaat. (Photo: Tony Carnie)

Residents of Tongaat, KwaZulu-Natal, have described the terror they felt as a tornado tore through the area on Monday, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Everyone remembers “that sound” when a tornado slammed into Tongaat somewhere around 4.30pm on Monday, 3 June.

It was a terrifying, screeching, overwhelming sound.

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Tongaat tornado. (Photo: Ethekwini municipality)

Some residents described it as akin to a jet plane about to crash. Others likened it to a rumbling goods train about to plough into their homes.

Patience Denge called it a “snake”.

Though the sun had not set, Denge remembers that the sky was almost black. The rain was belting down, then it turned to ice.

“That thing was very dark… It looked like there was a fire inside it and it was moving like a snake.

“Now I have nothing. Never mind my house. My ID document is gone. My daughter’s school books are gone. Our clothes are gone. Everything… It’s just gone – even the rafters from my roof,” Denge told Daily Maverick on Tuesday as she sat outside the shattered remains of her home in Magwaveni township in Tongaat, trying to figure out her next move.

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Hlengiwe Ntuli’s home was torn apart by the storm in Magwaveni, Tongaat. (Photo: Tony Carnie)

Just up the road, fellow resident Linda Mfeka was sitting in his lounge when the tornado struck. He was unable to run for safety since his right leg had been amputated a few years back due to diabetes.

“I was sitting on my sofa and suddenly the windows were blasted away. I don’t know how to describe it. It was like a big aeroplane coming for us. The roof sheets flew off. The front door tore in half – and I flew up to the ceiling.

“When I fell back on to the floor the room divider and the TV fell on top of me. I’m just very confused. My legs were cut by the flying glass and there’s almost nothing left of our house.”

Like many other residents, the Mfeka family lit a fire outside and slept on the ground until morning, before trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of what happened.

Apart from the fact that roads around Tongaat were blocked by fallen trees, many residents were reluctant to abandon what was left of their homes in case of looting.

“Where can we go? We can’t just leave our stuff here,” said Mfeka.

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A visitor in a Mercedes arrives to console family and friends outside a storm-shattered home in Magwaveni Tongaat. (Photo: Tony Carnie)

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Shaun Bissesser and teddy bear outside his wrecked home. (Photo: Tony Carnie)

Roughly a kilometre away, in the Sandfield section of Tongaat, Shaun Bissesser heard his daughter screaming in terror as she spotted a dark, massive, whirling shape bearing down on their home in Krishnapuri Street.

“We just had to take shelter,” he said. “The glass was flying everywhere. The roof tiles were flying. So we all dived under the main bed. Eventually, when there were no tiles above us, we took shelter in the car because of the rain.

“My niece and her four daughters were also trapped in the outhouse. The cellphone signal came and went but we eventually managed to contact relatives and slept overnight in Tongaat.”

Bissesser’s neighbour, Phillip Khanyile, was still at work when he heard that a tornado had struck Tongaat. He rushed home, only to find the roads blocked by fallen trees, electricity cables and other debris.

He had to leave his car at the Sandfield shopping centre and walk home through the wreckage, to be reunited with his wife, Happiness, who had sheltered beneath the stairs of their double-storey home at the height of the storm.

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The wrecked home of Phillip Khanyile in Krishnapuri Road, Tongaat. (Photo: Tony Carnie)

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Residents of Makhosini Street in Tongaat hang sodden clothes and furnishings out to dry after the storm swept through their homes. (Photo: Tony Carnie)

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Buying Ntuli stands in the shattered remnants of her home in Makhosini Street, Tongaat. (Photo: Tony Carnie)

Back in Magwaveni township, Buyi Ntuli was sitting outside the ruins of her home on Tuesday.

“We have no food. No shelter. No electricity. No water. Not even a blanket for tonight. And now we hear that the community halls are full.

“What can I say, apart from SOS?”

The tornado claimed at least seven lives in Tongaat. There were more deaths reported in other areas. DM

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