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Wave crashes into Dbn Steers

Earth News: South Africa
March 19, 2007

Photo: All beaches and ports have been closed after the South African Weather Service issued a national warning. Photo: Shuaib Essack, IOL Reader

The beachfront areas were pounded by massive surf in the early hours of Monday morning leaving the city's famed Golden Mile littered with debris as emergency services rescued numerous people. Winds in excess of 40 knots [80km/h or gale force] were reported on Sunday night. "This is not a spring tide but all the factors with the strong onshore winds have caused the spring tide-like conditions." The heavy weather forced the closure of all port operations in Durban. There was flooding in the area caused by the swelling of the river and strong onshore winds. "We are identifying the major disaster areas and will be trying to help evacuate people there first." One person was beleived drowned when a car was washed off a bridge in Umkomaas, however, it was later determined that it was empty. Two women at Durban's popular Blue Lagoon were washed off their feet when a FREAK WAVE broke over the bollards and crashed into the parking lot in the early hours of Monday morning. Staff at the Steers restaurant on the Lower Marine Parade were injured when waves crashed into the restaurant.

Related News Alerts: Freak Waves

Monster waves - Hundreds of firefighters and police were on standby last night as Durban braced itself for more of the monster waves that battered the KwaZulu-Natal coastline yesterday. Swells of between 5m and 8m trashed restaurants on Durban's Lower Marine Parade, ripped up riverside boardwalks in St Lucia, flooded a hotel in Isipingo and almost demolished a sewage station in Ballito. At Richards Bay, massive, muddy waves pounded through the harbour entrance and came within metres of washing away a municipal building. "The highest astronomical tide (which occurs every 18 years) is not a problem on its own. But it coincides with cyclones and extreme winds that whip up the swells." Durban's Golden Mile and other beaches would be shut to the public for at least two days. Paving was torn up all along the promenade and some roads around the beachfront were closed because of sand. "Ballito is in tatters. Some houses there had to be evacuated." A hotel in Isipingo was also evacuated, and all along the coast storm-water outlets had collapsed. At least one death has been confirmed as a result of the high seas along the coastline.

Hundreds of thousands of "disaster tourists" are risking life and limb by flocking to the coast to photograph the rubble-strewn disaster area. The "Golden Mile" beachfront was pounded by massive surf in the early hours of Monday, leaving the area littered with debris. "We just need one freak wave and that's it." The emergency services warned: "At any time more swells could assault the beaches, and if the area is as congested as it is at the moment, loss of life can be expected." Durban's weather office had confirmed that Monday and Tuesday could see even-bigger waves hitting the beleaguered coast, with the situation normalising by Wednesday once the winds have stopped.

Durban hospitals were filling up with storm victims as rescue and emergency services prepared for "the mother of all storms", that hit the KwaZulu-Natal coastline at about 6pm on Monday. Emergency services fielded numerous reports of missing people, collapsing homes and flooding due to a freak tidal wave in Durban. Freak tidal waves battered the coastline on Sunday night and dozens of people had to be rescued, while many others are still missing and feared dead. In Isipingo, seven people were rescued from a rooftop after the hotel they were staying in was flooded by high tidal waves. On Durban's beachfront, some restaurants and shops were damaged after two freak waves "roughly three metres high" struck between 2 and 3am. Windows were shattered and doors were completely broken down. Fourteen workers who were trapped inside the restaurants were rescued by emergency services and taken to various hospitals. Waves also hit holiday homes on the Bluff and at Ballito and a wall was washed away at the Inyoni Rocks swimming pool at the Amanzimtoti beachfront. In Ballito, 10 houses had extensive damage, with one beach house found with trees in its lounge. Security gates, retaining walls and walls had all been washed away, leaving the houses exposed to the elements. At Zinkwazi, the parking lot, usually level with the beach, was being eaten away by the waves and what remains is now nine metres above the sand. The skiboat slipway had disintegrated and all that remained of a beachfront pub was twisted metal. Hard times still ahead: Emergency services fielded numerous reports of missing people, collapsing homes and flooding due to a freak tidal wave in Durban. Photo: Shuaib Essack, IOL Reader

Durban weather services noted RECORD SWELL SIZES along the Durban coast on Monday morning. "We are at the equinox spring high. But it is at the highest it has been for 18 years because the sun, moon and earth were in a straight line. This, coupled with "a very deep low pressure system" off the southeast coast of East London that developed on the weekend, added an extra 3 to 4m to the swells. "We now have swells at over 6m on our coast. At the high tide earlier this morning at 02:00 some extremely high swells broke on the coast causing damage." "Winds are expected to persist southwest galeforce for another 18 to 20 hours and will then begin to moderate, and the swells will go down after 36 hours once the wind moderates." The biggest waves were expected at 16:00 on Monday and 04:00 today.
Photo: Durban's coastal areas have been flooded after 6m swells pounded the area overnight. (Jeff Wicks, ER24)

Emergency personnel and police were searching for eight people who were believed to have been washed off a bridge during a flash flood in Inanda, north of Durban. The eight victims were apparently on a bridge early on Thursday night when they were swept off when a flash flood hit. The bridge crossed over a normally dry waterway. The two-hour storm around 21:00 on Thursday caused severe flooding, leading to several flooded roads, causing accidents, and other disruptions in the Durban area. Heavy winds had also damaged roofs and caused trees to fall across roadways. The Durban beach front was also flooded on the lower Marine promenade.

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