At least six people were killed and many injured during an overnight storm that ravaged various parts of KwaZulu-Natal, the province's social development MEC Me-shack Hadebe said.
"It is huge. At least 10 areas have been devastated and more than 2000 families were affected," he told Sapa yesterday morning.
The freak storm was described by a resident as one of the worst.
Trees were uprooted, roofs caved in, walls and houses collapsed and in some areas water mains burst.
In recent months several similar "monstrous" storms struck different parts of the province and destroyed homes, leaving thousands homeless.
Hadebe said yesterday that a family of four was killed in Ndwedwe.
Another person was killed in the Dalton area and a sixth person died in Vryheid.
Police spokesman Superintendent Muzi Mngomezulu said the family from the Malangeni area of Ndwedwe were in their home when lightning struck.
"All four were struck by lightning and died. Another person was also struck by lightning in a house in KwaKhulusi."
Premier Sbu Ndebele told Sapathe damage was extensive and that he and Hadebe would be "splitting up" to visit the affected areas.
"At this stage it's difficult to say how much damage was done but many have been left homeless," he said.
Hadebe said he would visit Camperdown and then Ndwe-dwe. Ndebele would visit the Copesville and Imbali areas of Pietermaritzburg.
"Once we have visited these areas to assess the damage we will compile a report and then the premier will decide whether to declare any of them disaster areas," Hadebe said.
The Witness newspaper in Pietermaritzburg was also affected by the storm. News editor Stephanie Saville said their printing plant in Willowton had had most of its roof torn off.
Managing director Piet le Roux said they were grateful that none of their staff were injured during the storm.
"The press will be out of commission for some time but we're just grateful that no one was injured."
He said plans were being made for the Witness, Ilanga, Daily Sun and many weekly titles to be printed with the assistance of Media 24 in Johannesburg, Africa Web Press and Independent Newspapers in Durban.
"The Witness hasn't missed the publication of an issue in 163 years of existence but we would ask that our readers be patient since deliveries might be later than usual through this period.
"We plan to be fully operational again as soon as possible," said Le Roux.
Disaster management teams were sent to the affected areas to help residents and launch mopping-up operations.
Spokesman for the local government department Lennox Mabaso said once verification had taken place, they would release the exact number of people killed in the storm.
The cost of the damage was unknown. - Sapa.