Destructive EF-3 tornado and severe hailstorm leave 6 people dead in South Africa

Destructive EF-3 tornado and severe hailstorm leave 6 people dead in South Africa

At least 6 fatalities have been confirmed while dozens of properties have been damaged or destroyed after severe storms -- including hail reportedly bigger than a golf ball, an EF-3 tornado, lightning, and strong winds -- lashed eastern provinces of South Africa on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 17 and 18, 2020.

In KwaZulu-Natal, two people were reported dead while one person remains missing after a major hailstorm accompanied by lightning hit the province. A 10-year-old child was injured in Umuziwabantu.

Hailstones that were described as larger than a golf ball damaged about 70 homes in the Msunduzi municipality. 

"A 22-year-old female is still missing and is believed to have been swept away, trying to cross the local river in Umlazi F Section in eThekwini," said official Sipho Hlomuka.

In Eastern Cape, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) confirmed that an EF-3 tornado formed in the Mthatha area, damaging homes, buildings, and tossing cars into the air.

Multicell thunderstorms traveled to the east, and during the next three hours, it traveled almost 280 km (174 miles) from Graaf-Reinet to Bofolo, while an intensifying storm south of Burgersdorp moved for about 78 km (48 miles) southeast, SAWS explained.

Shortly after, there was another change of storm movement-- very high winds from the intensified multicell storm resulted in damage to properties, houses, and vehicles, including to the Mthatha Airport. Heavy downpours also resulted in localized flooding, while high winds uprooted trees.

"Classrooms at Jumba High School and Tabase Primary School were destroyed by the tornado that hit Mthatha on Tuesday. Grade 7 pupils in Tabase wrote their exams in drenched desks and leaking classrooms as the rain continued on Thursday," a local journalist posted on Twitter.

"Computer labs, books, and printing machines were destroyed. The area has been without electricity since Tuesday thus leaving teachers with no option, but to ask to make exam question paper copies in school in town."

At least four fatalities have been confirmed while dozens were left homeless. Human settlements minister Lindiwe Sisulu described the event as "shocking beyond what was initially thought."

On Thursday, November 19, Sisulu and a team of government officials arrived in Mthatha to visit the affected families. 

The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development has called for appropriate remedial action so that much-needed emergency aid can reach the affected areas.

"We are defined as a nation by how we respond to the plight of others in their deepest hour of need and when they are most vulnerable. We must ensure that we combine our efforts to assist those in need during this time," chairperson Nkosi Mandela stated.

Featured image credit: @Ziyanda_ZZ/Twitter

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