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Dozens of people were left homeless and at least one person died after a twister tore through five villages outside Middledrift in the Eastern Cape.


Dozens of people were left homeless and at least one person died after a twister tore through five villages outside Middledrift in the Eastern Cape.

  • A woman was crushed to death when a twister tore through five villages outside Middledrift in the Eastern Cape.
  • The woman’s young granddaughter was rushed to hospital after sustaining minor injuries.
  • Dozens of people were forced to find refuge in neighbouring villages not affected by the tornado.  

A woman was crushed to death when her house collapsed, while dozens of homes were damaged after a twister tore through five villages outside Middledrift in the Eastern Cape.

The tornado struck around 21:00 on Thursday, according to villagers.

The deceased woman has been identified as 56-year-old Nomvano Jeku from Cwaru village.

Her husband, Mphitizeli Jeku, 64, said the walls collapsed as his wife and their three-year-old granddaughter were trying to escape the falling home just after 22:00.   

He said:

“My wife was holding the baby in her arms, while I was trying to unlock the door as we tried to flee because the roof was blown off. The wall collapsed on my wife and the kid. They were trapped underneath the bricks, while I asked for help from neighbours. We removed the rubble, but unfortunately it was too late, she died instantly.”

Jeku said his granddaughter was rushed to hospital the same night after sustaining minor injuries. She was discharged on Friday morning.

“I have never experienced anything like what I saw there before. I was very lucky not to die under those bricks,” said Jeku during a telephone interview.  

READ | 5 tremors in one day in SA

The Eastern Cape’s health department spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo, said a postmortem will be conducted to confirm the cause of death.  

tornado

Wreckage left by the tornado.

Raymond Mhlaba Municipality ward 16 councillor Xolile Badi said that, of the 10 villages and a town under his jurisdiction, five villages were affected by the tornado.

“I have dispatched my ward committee members to do door-to-door, collecting data, and assess the extent of the damages. We will meet later today for report.

“What I can confirm is that an elderly woman, Mrs Jeku, has unfortunately died and that five villages were affected. There are people who are now homeless, so we are trying to find help for them,” said Badi.

Badi was working in conjunction with the disaster management office of the municipality.

Kupelo said: “Our forensic team was called to the scene and, when they arrived, the body had already been collected by a private mortuary. The family will be advised to redirect the body to the state facility, so that an autopsy can be conducted as this was an unnatural death.”

According to resident Sakhumzi Tshaka, the severe weather struck around 21:00 while he was driving home.

“It started raining hard, there was lightning. I had to drive very slowly because the wind uprooted trees. When I got home, I found my house without a roof and the walls knocked down. I have two properties, even the other one was damaged.”

Cwaru village is also without electricity after the severe weather damaged power lines, said Tshaka.

“We really don’t understand this type of storm, even our taps have run dry. We don’t have water after this tornado,” said Tshaka.

Tshaka said his elderly mother, who had been sleeping, narrowly escaped death after bricks hit her bed.

tornado

The wreckage left by the tornado.

“It’s bad, the entire village has been affected by the weather. Roofs have been blown away and walls have been knocked down,” said Tshaka. 

He said dozens of villagers have been left without a place to sleep.

“Others found refuge at neighbouring villages that were not affected by the storm.”

SA Weather Services meteorologist Mandisa Manentsa-Titisi said: “There were thunderstorms observed between Somerset East and Fort Beaufort between 19h00 and 21h00 that moved south-eastwards towards the East London coast.

“However, we were unable to confirm their severity due to the absence of radar coverage in the area, and due to the time they occurred. We were only relying on satellite pictures.

“There were, however, some intense lightning strokes that could be observed on the satellite pictures. These thunderstorms were due to a surface and upper trough that resulted in unstable conditions, with the moist south-easterly winds enhancing those thunderstorms.”



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