We’re lucky to be alive, says Durban flood survivor

Xolani Ngubo’s shack collapsed on him and his family while they were sleeping

Photo of man with broken shack

Part of Xolani Ngubo’s shack collapsed in the heavy rains which lashed KwaZulu-Natal on Monday night. Photo: Musa Binda

By Musa Binda

23 April 2019

“I have seen heavy rains in my life, but not like I saw in the early hours of today.”

Xolani Ngubo, 43, and his family were left homeless when heavy rains struck his home in Emhlabeni informal settlement in Umlazi, south of Durban.

Ngubo told GroundUp that he and his family are lucky to be alive as part of their three room shack fell on them while they were sleeping.

“Last night we had seen that the weather was getting uglier but we stayed in our shack because we had nowhere else to go. We kept praying that it wouldn’t get worse in the middle of the night but we could hear the rain hitting harder and harder on the roof,” said Ngubo.

He said at about 2am he suddenly heard a loud bang from the back of his shack. “ I jumped out of my bed and I went to the other bedroom where my two kids were sleeping. I grabbed them and went outside the shack.”

He said that was when he noticed that the children’s mother, Balungile Mthembu, 39, had not come out of the shack.

“I left my kids outside and went back inside the shack and that’s when I discovered that she was seriously injured in her legs. I started shouting for help from the neighbours and we called the ambulance but it took a long time so we ended up helping her out of the rubble and hired a car. She was rushed to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital,” said Ngubo.

He said Mthembu was being treated in hospital for fractured leg and ribs.

When GroundUp spoke to him he did not know where he and the children would sleep tonight. He said no-one from the authorities had come to their area.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs said 32 people had died in Monday night’s floods.

MEC Nomsa Dube-Ncube urged residents and visitors to the province to remain on full alert and to move to higher ground if under threat. She said disaster relief efforts were in progress in all affected areas.

“Heavy rains have claimed 32 lives so far and ten missing persons, all [of the missing] are children in and around Durban alone. There have also been 42 reported injuries. Over 2,000 emergency calls were logged in the Durban area last night,” said Dube-Ncube.

She said dozens of incidents of collapsed walls and flooded homes had been reported, with 235 Durban homes already assessed as damaged. “Roads have been flooded too, disrupting traffic as KZN enters the first working day after the long Easter weekend. Motorists and pedestrians are urged to exercise utmost caution on the roads that are already flooded or where there is high risk of flash flooding,” said Dube-Ncube.

She said the province was working closely with eThekwini metro and other affected municipalities to coordinate relief efforts. Authorities had reported 145 displaced persons, some of whom had already found shelter with relatives.