The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal has activated councillors and volunteers to assist affected communities after a tornado hit New Hanover, Pietermaritzburg, on Tuesday afternoon.
The tornado, according to the department, “ripped through the area, injuring scores of people and damaging homes and public infrastructure”.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka said preliminary reports received by the department indicated a number of people, who had sustained injuries, were currently receiving medical treatment at surrounding hospitals.
“A number of homes have collapsed, countless trees have been uprooted and the electricity supply in the area has been interrupted. Our teams are working hard to provide support to the affected communities.”There are fears of possible missing people and deaths.
Earlier, News24 reported the South African Weather Service was hesitant to confirm it was a tornado, as videos went viral on social media.
According to weather forecasters, “an intense, category four storm” was expected this afternoon as some parts of the province geared up for severe thunderstorms which might lead to flooding.
Forecaster Dipuo Tawana told News24 that they have not seen the videos currently circulating on social media, “but according to our diagram, we could see the storm had a hook, which means there could be a charge down of funnel cloud” (a rotating funnel-shaped cloud forming the core of a tornado or waterspout).
Power utility Eskom said the infrastructure at its Mersey substation was affected by the tornado.
In a statement, its spokesperson, Joyce Zingoni, said: “The storm was in the area around the Mersey substation which led to the 33kV Mpolweni feeder tripping.”
Teams have been dispatched to evaluate the damage, but Zingoni have warned there might be power interruptions.
“Eskom will only be able to ascertain the affected customers after the evaluation.”