Lightning kills two and injures 50 in Bergville, KZN

Lightning streaks across the sky in KwaZulu-Natal area during one of the many rains of the season. Picture: Karen Sandison

Lightning streaks across the sky in KwaZulu-Natal area during one of the many rains of the season. Picture: Karen Sandison

Published Jan 5, 2024


Two farmworkers were struck down and killed by lightning while another 50 farmworkers were injured in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal.

In a statement issued on Thursday by the KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), the department stated that provincial Disaster Management teams responded to a tragic incident in Bergville on Wednesday afternoon.

“According to our preliminary reports, lightning struck around 2pm on Wednesday while people were still working on the farm. About 50 people were affected by the lightning and received on-site medical attention, while four were transported to the hospital, where they are currently in recovery.”

KZN MEC for Cogta, Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, has expressed condolences to the grieving families.

“It is saddening that these disasters continue to claim lives in our province, despite our efforts to mitigate the risk. Our disaster teams are collaborating with the affected families to provide any necessary assistance. We have also co-ordinated with other departments to offer the required support, including psychological counselling for the survivors and their families,” she stated.

The department said that the disaster teams were actively monitoring the situation on the ground, and further details would be provided in due course.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday and Thursday, Alfred Duma Local Municipality mayor Zama Sibisi and other provincial government officials attended the funeral of seven members of the Msimango family who were swept away by the heavy floods that occurred during the Christmas days in Roosboom.

The municipality experienced heavy rains leading to floods and damage to infrastructure, where some houses and community members were swept away on Christmas Eve.

According to the municipality, areas around the Bell Spruit in Shepstone Road and Caravan Park flooded, resulting in 10 prefab houses and one BMW vehicle being swept away.

“Two children and their father were swept into the Bell Spruit. According to the local police, the body of one child was recovered, and the search for the father and another child continued until they were discovered,” read the statement.

One vehicle was stuck under the bridge in Shepstone Road with four occupants. One occupant drowned and three were rescued. On the N11 at the Animal Anti Cruelty League, three vehicles were also swept away, including a VW Polo, a Ford Bantam, and a Ford Ranger, and were recovered by police on December 25.

At the time, the police stated that a total of six bodies were recovered with others missing. Shepstone Road at Bell Spruit was completely washed away.

The municipality stated that it was the first time in history that Bell Spruit flooded to this level where the N11 was also affected.

Sibisi expressed his heartfelt sympathy to the affected families and shared condolences with the families who lost their loved ones during the flooding.

A research study funded by The Leverhulme Trust with further support from the University of the Witwatersrand dated April 11, 2023, showed that flooding events in the province have doubled in the last century.

According to the study, the disastrous flood that hit Durban in April 2022 was the most catastrophic natural disaster yet recorded in KZN in collective terms of lives lost, homes and infrastructure damaged or destroyed, and economic impact.

Professor Stefan Grab from Wits University and his colleague, Professor David Nash, constructed a geographical history of flooding disasters in KZN by sifting through thousands of archived articles held in old newspapers, colonial and government records, early missionary records, and meteorological records which became available from the 1850s onwards.

“They define extreme flooding events, where major rivers were overflowing their banks, together with one or more significant consequences, such as the loss of human life, livestock, agricultural fields and crops, and infrastructure such as buildings, roads and bridges.

“The study, which reconstructed the history of floods in KZN since the 1840s, confirmed a widely held – yet anecdotal view – that the April 2022 floods were likely the most catastrophic natural disaster yet recorded in KZN and that flooding events have doubled over the last century or more.

“Right after the floods, many commentators like the media, some scientists, and others were quick to report that the floods were the most severe ever recorded. Our aim was to place the floods into perspective and see if this and other statements related to the disaster were factually correct by building a historic geographic account of past floods and associated extreme rainfall events for the province of KZN and particularly the greater Durban region,” said Grab, lead author of the study.

Sunday Independent