Home News Storm-hit residents begin mop-up

Storm-hit residents begin mop-up

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As Gong-Gong residents are assessing the damages they suffered during a heavy rainstorm that hit the area on March 4, many indicated that they do not know how they will rebuild their homes that were destroyed during the storm.

Miriam Britz in front of what is left of the house that she has been living in for the past 11 years. Picture: Soraya Crowie

AS GONG-Gong residents are assessing the damages they suffered during a heavy rainstorm that hit the area on March 4, many indicated that they do not know how they will rebuild their homes that were destroyed during the storm.

More than 50 houses and some shanties were destroyed during the heavy rainstorm that ripped through the town just after midday on Monday, causing havoc and destruction.

Residents said that the entire episode was over within about 10 to 15 minutes, but the experience felt like it continued for many hours.

One resident, Jana van Wyk, whose leg was cut when a window in her house was ripped out of the wall, said the town looked like something out of a Hollywood disaster movie after the storm had passed.

“I was at home with my four-year-old son. I was inside the living room when I heard the wind raging and went to the door to go and see what was happening. The next moment, there was this strong wind that was blowing through the house. The door slammed and I ran to close the window … As I grabbed the window handle, the entire window frame was ripped out of the wall.

“I went flying across the living room with the window frame and slammed into the opposite wall of the living room. The glass from the window cut into my leg. There was a glass stuck in my back too,” said Van Wyk.

“When I looked up, I saw the roof of my house was gone. It felt like I had no shelter because the wind was blowing right through the house. I frantically shouted for my son. Everything inside the house was a huge mess as the furniture was soaking wet and some pieces were being blown from one room to the next. Some other things inside the house were blown away by the wind.

“As I was trying to figure out what was happening, it was suddenly dead quiet and the storm was over. I got up and looked for my son amongst the rubble. I found him in the bedroom, hiding next to the bed. I saw that the sliding door of the house was also ripped out and had been blown under the bed. There were clothes and furniture everywhere. Some thighs from the kitchen were found in the bedroom.

“Luckily, my son was unharmed. The entire ceiling board from the bedroom fell onto the bed, but only a small piece hit my son on his head. I was so relieved to see him unharmed and that he did not opt to hide under the bed, as the sliding door would have crushed him,” added Van Wyk.

Miriam Britz said she could not believe that the house she had been living in for the past 11 years had been reduced to a pile of rubble.

“I was at the clinic when the storm started. My 21-year-old daughter was home alone and sleeping at the time of the incident. I managed to get a lift in a friend’s car after I was done at the clinic. We were caught in the middle of the storm as we were driving home.

“The driver stopped the car as it felt as if the wind was trying to push it off the road. We sat inside the car and felt the wind pulling on the car,” said Britz.

She said she was shocked to see that the walls of her house had collapsed when she got home.

“When I got home, I found people in the yard trying to salvage some of my furniture and other things. My house looked like it had been vandalised. The bricks from the walls were lying on the ground because the entire front part of the house had collapsed. Everything was in disarray.

“I heard that my daughter had passed out at my neighbour’s house. One of the bricks had fallen on her ankle and she had struggled to walk. The neighbours told me that she luckily made it out of the house safely without any other serious injuries.”

The shanty of Joyce Mlalale, a pensioner, looked like a pile of ruffled papers as it lay in a heap inside her yard.

“I was also at the clinic and heard someone call one of the employees at the clinic, saying that people’s houses were blown away by the storm. I got a shock as I knew there was nobody at my house and I suddenly became anxious about my shanty. I ran home from the clinic.

“When I got home, I could not believe my eyes as everything was gone. Some of the zinc sheets from my shanty were found inside the yards of houses nearby. It did not even look like there was ever any structure standing on my land,” she said.

Another resident whose house roof was blown off, Terence van Wyk, said their neighbourhood looked like a war zone after the storm.

“This is so heartbreaking. The area was scattered with clothes, window frames, zinc sheets, food, furniture and other things. People had to search through the piles of rubble for whatever they could salvage and had to ask for a roof over their heads from other residents who were not as badly affected by the storm,” he said.

“We now have to stay with family and friends because of this incident. I had to go and seek accommodation from my brother for myself, my wife and our children. We are now five grown-ups and nine children staying in a four-room house.

“The Department of Social Development and other government departments are currently making assessments of the damage suffered, but there is no time frame when this assessment will be completed. There is also no guarantee that we will be able to get the full value of the losses suffered.

“To fix the roof of a house is very expensive. My house is newly constructed and I have invested a lot in it. The chances are slim that I will get the same amount from the department that I have spent on this house.

“I want the process to be concluded as I also do not want to become a burden to my brother and his family. I cannot stay at their house with my family for an unlimited period.

“This incident has derailed our lives beyond the fact that we now have to rebuild our homes. Some of us will be able to recover from this ordeal, but many of the residents have lost everything and do not have the means to start afresh,” Van Wyk said with a sigh.

Miriam Britz’s home was destroyed in the storm. Picture: Soraya Crowie
Joyce Molale said that she is totally dependent on assistance from the government to get her shanty up again. Picture: Soraya Crowie
Jana van Wyk suffered injuries to her leg after the window of he her house was ripped out of the wall and smashed into her. Picture: Soraya Crowie
Terence van Wyk’s newly constructed house roof was badly damaged during the heavy rainstorm. Picture: Soraya Crowie
The roof of the Van Wyk home is currently covered with canvas in a bid to avoid any further damage. Picture: Soraya Crowie
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