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Open Features: Chaos

"An ominous cloud swirled in from the north. Thunder rolled and lightening zig-zagged across the sky. The wind came up. Then the rain came down …….in sleets! This was followed by hail, first small but then increasing in size to that of large golfballs! All hell broke loose!.''

Marianne Hall brings a dramtic account of a violent storm which wreaked a huge amount of damage upon areas in South Africa.

It was Saturday afternoon, the twentieth of October.

Tiled roofs were shattered. bolts loosened on galvanised roofs and wooden huts reduced to matchsticks. Gutters were pocketed with holes. Solar heaters lay in pieces. Trees were bared of their branches and leaves, birds’ nests flung to the ground and gardens flattened. Flowers were stripped off bushes and roses.

Water poured in as ceilings buckled and collapsed. It soaked into beds, carpets and furniture. Windows were smashed and blinds and curtains ripped.

Holes were torn into the windscreens of vehicles and bonnets were dented with craters.

Electrical sub-stations were hit and power lines down.

Emergency lines jammed with desperate callers.

The hardest hit areas in Gauteng were Bedfordview, Sunnyridge, Edenvale and Homestead.

Tania Campbell, councillor of Homestead and surrounding areas had this to say:

“At least 400 houses in my area were hit. My phone did not stop from Sunday. People were desperate for help. I feel really bad for some old folk who do not have insurance as they are battling with the damages.”

A taxi driver commented: “Eish! I was so frightened, I put my head on the steering wheel and prayed!”

People were queuing up for plastic sheeting, packaging tape, glass, putty, wood and other materials. Contractors and glaziers worked non stop to repair the damage. Insurance companies brought in extra staff from all over the country.

Assessors were sent to those with the greatest damage. Other clients were given claim numbers and told to send in quotes.
A day-to-day description was kept by Therese Schroeder, co-owner of the Ashanti Guest House in Sunnyridge. Fortunately, there were no guests over the weekend,

20 October:

“All front big windows of guesthouse are broken. Upstairs all doors and windows are broken. Roof has holes. Fortuna (room) and Savanna is flooded. Curtains are shredded. Gutters have huge holes. Horizon blinds torn to shreds. Duvet in double bed shredded. At home all bedroom windows are broken. Roof has holes. All garden furniture is in small pieces.
The hail was like golf balls. Thank goodness my car was in the garage. The Germans next door have four cars that have no windows and are very badly dented. There does not seem to be one house in Northridge Avenue without broken windows, gutters and roofs.

Sunnyridge was very badly hit, we are on a hill.

Willem’s firefighter friend phoned to say that the glass doors of the Primrose Fire Department are broken. Most ambulances were standing outside and their windows were shattered.
Six rolls of packing tape were used to tape up the holes and the broken glass. Willem drove all over to get plastic bags. There was such a rush to seal up broken windows. We used the plastic bags which lined the pond to cover the big windows downstairs. We also used about one hundred bags to cover all the other windows.

I wonder how the squatters fare? I cannot see their huts standing up to this storm.”

22 October:

“Right now just trying to get the roof fixed so that if it rains the Roman room and bottom rooms will not be flooded again. I just hope the rain stays away tonight. The contractors are still busy. Willem got a large salvage sheet from a friend. They are going to cover what they cannot fix tonight.

There are thousands of homes that are completely flooded from roof damage. The insurance company told me they have thousands of claims, and that they would only send out an assessor in three weeks to access the damage done to my home. The claims have all been logged but it will take weeks before repairs are done. For the contents of the guesthouse I need to get two quotes for the curtains, blinds, hospitality trays, etc.

We still have no electricity at home – that is now three days – all fridges and freezers are leaking!

My little dog Maxi is limping around. I am supposed to do hot and cold compresses every two hours but cannot without electricity.

23 October:

“The assessor for the guesthouse has just been.
He estimates that the damages to the guesthouse will be over one hundred thousand rand!”


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