FOUR people were injured on Tuesday when a goods train carrying timber plunged into the Amanzimtoti River near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal emergency services said.
“The raging river has eroded the sand from under the train tracks, causing the train to plunge several metres into the torrential waters,” Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said.
Paramedics arrived at the scene to find the four train staff members severely traumatised, cold and wet. “After they were stabilised on scene, medics transported them to the Netcare Kingsway hospital,” Mr Botha said.
Barry Gonin, director at forecast service Weather Intelligence Systems, said the heavy rainfall in KwaZulu-Natal had led to rising water levels, which caused the accident.
“Rivers were swelling but I am not sure if they passed their threshold. It was not rainfall directly that caused the accident but it was a contributing factor over a period of time,” he said.
Weather Intelligence Systems alerts Transnet Freight Rail of weather hazards so that it can slow down trains or repair tracks. However, the railway at the Amanzimtoti River was not a Transnet-owned track but was rented, limiting its capacity to intervene.
The Railway Safety Regulator has sent inspectors to the site of the incident. It said two locomotives and one wagon had derailed.
Meanwhile, 14 people died when a bridge on the R65 between Ermelo and Lothair collapsed in heavy rain on Monday night just before 9pm, the Mpumalanga department of community safety said.
“We have 14 people killed. The bridge was swept away and four cars just plunged into the water,” provincial safety spokesman Joseph Mabuza said.
The bridge was over a dry river bed but flash floods fill it with water when it rains heavily, Mr Mabuza said. He added that divers had completed their search as all missing people had been accounted for.
KwaZulu-Natal was on Tuesday still under a warning from the South African Weather Service for heavy rainfall and severe thunderstorms, especially in the western parts of the province.
Severe weather continued to cause damage elsewhere in the province too.
Late on Monday, the homes of more than 300 people in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, which was hit by a massive hailstorm on Sunday, sustained further damage when a new storm moved into the area, a nongovernmental organisation said.
“It has been raining hard.... The plastic sheeting we provided to affected residents to seal their roofs has been blown away,” Al-Imdaad Foundation project co-ordinator Abed Karrim said. “The houses are being flooded. People are in a state of shock at the damage the storm is causing.”
Sunday night’s hailstorm, reportedly with “fist-sized” hail stones, tore through Ladysmith and surrounding areas such as Acaciavale, Ntombi’s Camp and Steadville.
The Al-Imdaad Foundation was distributing blankets and mattresses, and providing hot meals to those affected by the storms.
Earlier, co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube said KwaZulu-Natal would need millions of rand to help those affected by hailstorms.
Ms Dube led a disaster management team to provide assistance to those left homeless on Monday.
“This was indeed an intense storm judging by the severity of damages,” she said. “We need everyone in the spirit of ubuntu to make a contribution ... it is time for humanity to unite.”
Bransby Bulo, a forecaster at the South African Weather Service, said on Tuesday morning that while conditions were rainy in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, improvements could be expected later in the week.
“Durban had 66mm of rain this morning and further south in Paddock was 120mm of rain,” he said. “We are expecting conditions to improve from today although it’s still cloudy, down from an 80% chance to a 60% chance of rain.
“In Mpumalanga it’s also cloudy at the moment with an 80% chance of showers and thundershowers later today. We are expecting an improvement from tonight.”
With Sapa, Reuters and Khulekani Magubane