Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monster wave hits Ballito!

This March 10, 2007 story from the South African Daily News I seemed to have missed but it a very note worthy story indeed to report on.

Monster wave warning issued

Miranda Andrew, Sharlene Packree and Bhavna Sookha

Durban hospitals are filling up with storm victims as rescue and emergency services prepared for "the mother of all storms", expected to hit the KwaZulu-Natal coastline at about 6pm on Monday. "We are mobilising every resource, from surf rescue helicopters to available ambulances and even off-duty personnel," said Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha.

Inspector Troy Alison of the Police Search and Rescue team said all their resources were already in place. "All emergency services are working together and we are making contingency plans ahead of this afternoon's storm. Apparently it's going to be much worse than last night," Alison said.

'Others are still missing and feared dead'
Meanwhile, the eThekwini Disaster Management team have been locked in a meeting since Monday morning to decide whether homes situated along beaches should be evacuated before the storm.

All beaches and ports were closed on Monday after the South African Weather Service issued a national warning that high seas with wave heights in excess of seven metres are expected along the southern KwaZulu-Natal coastline. The Weather Service had earlier predicted that waves would reach five metres, but the storm has been upgraded.

Freak tidal waves battered the coastline on Sunday night and dozens of people had to be rescued, while many others are still missing and feared dead.

Emergency services fielded numerous reports of missing people, collapsing homes and flooding. Areas devastated by the almost five-metre waves included Umkomaas, Isipingo, Ballito, Durban beachfront, the Bluff, Umdloti, Margate, and other coastline areas.

In Isipingo, seven people were rescued from a rooftop after the hotel they were staying in was flooded by high tidal waves. And at the Blue Lagoon beach, two friends were standing in the parking lot when they were hit by a freak wave.

On Durban's beachfront, some restaurants and shops were damaged after two freak waves "roughly three metres high" struck between 2 and 3am.

Steers, Wimpy, Wrap It up, Milky Lane and other shops were battered. When the Daily News visited the area, owners and inspectors were inspecting the damages.

Windows were shattered and doors were completely broken down. Fourteen workers who were trapped inside the restaurants were rescued by emergency services and taken to various hospitals.

There were no reported deaths.

Waves also hit holiday homes on the Bluff and at Ballito and a wall was washed away at the Inyoni Rocks swimming pool at the Amanzimtoti beachfront.

In Ballito, Daily News readers reported that 10 houses had extensive damage, with one beach house found with trees in its lounge. Security gates, retaining walls and walls had all been washed away, leaving the houses exposed to the elements.

At Zinkwazi, resident Dennis Brand reports that the parking lot, usually level with the beach, was being eaten away by the waves and what remains is now nine metres above the sand. The skiboat slipway had disintegrated and all that remained of a beachfront pub was twisted metal.

Thembinkosi Ngcobo, head of eThekwini's Parks, Leisure and Cemeteries department, said that the local beaches and roads leading to the beaches had been closed until further notice.

"For safety reasons we are advising people to stay away from beaches. We will be making an assessment tomorrow on whether open the beaches," he said.
Chief Fire Officer Mark te Water said the eThekwini fire department had been instrumental in evacuating people from flooded homes along the coastline.

"Many homes have received extensive damage due to the flooding at parts of the coastline. There have also been several electricity disruptions," he said.

Te Water said they were busy with assessments of the damaged areas and hoped these would help determine the full extent of the storm damage.

"We're hoping for an aerial assessment of the coastline and along the beachfront."

He said that while their staff complement for this evening would be normal, there would be several officers on standby.

"We are an emergency service and are available 24 hours a day. We are anticipating a busy night and standby staff will be called in if need be," said te Water.

NSRI spokesperson Paul Bevis said that many volunteers were making plans to get off work early so that they could be on standby for Monday night's storm.

"Our primary aim is to back up other emergency services and SAPS Search and Rescue whenever they need it. Our guys are committed to helping others," he said.

Bevis urged curious onlookers to stay away from the beaches. - Daily News


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