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KZN Easter storms claimed more than 80 lives - and this week's deluge could be worse

Residents try to salvage their possessions after a tornado struck Mpolweni in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands on Tuesday.
Residents try to salvage their possessions after a tornado struck Mpolweni in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands on Tuesday.
Image: Orrin Singh

“This is not a warning we can afford to downplay or minimise in any way.”

That was the ominous message from KZN co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka on Thursday.

He said the intensity of threatened storms on Thursday and Friday was expected to be greater than in April, when more than 80 people died in the floods.

Addressing journalists at the eThekwini's disaster management centre in Durban, Hlomuka said the inclement weather would intensify on Thursday into Friday.

He said the entire province was at risk, with five fatalities confirmed since the weekend. He said 16 people had died since October 25, when the first round of bad  weather hit KZN.

“We are also asking business leaders and employers to release workers early and allow people to work from home rather than report at their workplaces, in the interest of public safety. This, of course, cannot apply to workers rendering essential services,” said Hlomuka.

He urged citizens not to take unnecessary risks and to minimise their movements.

“Warnings and evacuations are being planned in flood-line areas and we urge everyone to co-operate with instructions from the emergency services.”

Hlomuka said the warnings and issues related to damage and death as a result of inclement weather had been escalated to national level.

On Thursday, the department of education asked schools to send pupils home after forecasts of severe storms.

The SA Weather Service (Saws) warned on Wednesday that the worst was not over for the eastern part of the country, including KZN, with accumulated rainfall expected to exceed 150mm on Thursday and Friday.

The service said heavy rain was expected to lead to the flooding of roads and settlements, both formal and informal, which may result in communities being displaced and rendered inaccessible.

Storm Report SA posted a video on Facebook on November 14 2019 of another apparent tornado forming in KwaZulu-Natal, this time in Bergville. The video is captioned: “This is still unconfirmed and a developing story.” Storm Report SA quoted a witness who said the “tornado” had touched the ground multiple times.