Hail kills child, destroys homes

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

One person was killed and several others were injured when rains, accompanied by hail the size of golf balls, ravaged Hostlands at Ladysmith, in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, at the weekend.

The storm destroyed homes and left more than 100 families homeless.

Sthabile Zwane, 8, died after her parents' home collapsed on her family. Sthabile, who was a deaf mute, was with her granny, Agnes Zwane, 43, and cousins, Mpama Zwane, 15, and Philasande Zwane, 11, when the house caved in on them.

Mndeni Zwane, 25, said it rained heavily after 4pm on Saturday.

The house he was in was the first to fall and when he rushed to another house, where his grandmother and other family members were, it also collapsed.

"I was about to enter the house when it came tumbling down. I took a few steps back and I then heard a child crying underneath the bricks.

"I rushed in and took her out and rushed back to save my mother and my two brothers. Sthabile was crying hysterically and blood was pouring out of her nose," Mndeni said.

He said he did not know how his grandmother and two brothers survived.

"It's a miracle that they survived, but my niece was not so fortunate. She died minutes later.

"It was the most horrible sight. I see it in my dreams over and over again. It was the worst way of dying, especially because she was disabled," said Mndeni.

His grandmother suffered facial injuries and was unable to speak, while Mpama and Philasande both suffered broken arms and legs. Agnes and Philasande are still in hospital.

Another neighbour, Siphiwe Xaba, who lost everything in the storm, said he was not at home when it started.

"They phoned me to inform me that what used to be my home was no more, and when I arrived I was shocked to see that the three rooms had fallen down," he said.

Xaba said he could not believe how his wife Thoko, 26, and son Sabelo, 6, survived.

"This is the worst disaster to hit us in the past five years I have been here. I hope it never befalls us again," he said.

Yesterday, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for social welfare and population development Meshack Hadebe provided the families with tents and food parcels.

Hadebe said this was the ninth storm in the area in the past two months, and the storms had claimed 15 lives.

Local mayor, Duduzile Mazibuko, said they would help the affected families with building materials to rebuild their homes.