Lightning strike leaves 4 dead, 4 critical as extreme thunderstorms rip through KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Lightning strike leaves 4 dead, 4 critical as extreme thunderstorms rip through KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Four people have been killed and four others left in critical condition after being struck by lightning during the weekend's severe thunderstorms in northern KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, according to a report by the uMkhanyakude municipality on October 27, 2019.  The event marks the start of the summer disaster season that has in the past devastated communities across KwaZulu-Natal. 

Five people were reportedly walking together in the town of Mkhuze when they were struck by lightning. "Two of these people died instantly while the other three are still critical in hospital," said district spokesperson Mdu Dlamini.

In the Jozini municipality, two others were killed by lightning. Moreover, two high school campuses were damaged by the storm on Friday, October 25. The South Africa Weather Service had issued an extreme weather warning prior to this.

Dlamini said the numbers could rise as a family home in Jozini was also struck by lightning. "At this stage, we are not sure how many people died at the home belonging to the Dlamini family."

Dlamini assured that the municipality and the Department of Human Settlements would provide assistance to affected families whose homes were left damaged.

The municipal disaster management team is set to compile a final report of the damages and casualties.

The preliminary report showed that wards 2, 3, 5, 6, and 9 were affected by the storm. Ward 5 councilor Bonginkosi Mahaye said 300 to 400 residences in his ward and four schools namely Makhonyeni, Sthembiso, Mbhajana Primary Schools, and Mkhonjeni High School, were in ruins.

Education Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said, "It is making arrangements for alternatives for pupils when they write today." 

Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka was expected to visit the families of the victims on Monday. "We express our heartfelt condolences to the families and communities. We are aware that four other people are in critical condition."

"This is the start of the summer disaster season that has in the past devastated communities across KwaZulu-Natal. The occurrence of natural disasters is becoming more frequent due to climate change. KZN Cogta is ramping up its capacity to respond to disasters accordingly." 

Hlomuka has urged residents to follow weather forecasts and take the necessary safety precautions.

Featured image credit: @ian_froome_photography/Unsplash

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