After heavy rains and strong winds blew away their roofs and flooded their homes, some families in Makokoba suburb in Bulawayo had their household property damaged and food and other valuables destroyed early this week.
Families living in the council-owned Hlalani Flats said they were now stranded because the water keeps flooding their homes whenever it rains.
They are pleading with the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) to help them repair the roofs.
CITE visited affected families, who described how they scurried for cover as their roofs were blown off by strong winds.
“On Monday, it began to rain while I was at home. A strong wind shook the house and hit the asbestos. I then moved to the kitchen, where the pounding rain destroyed the roof and asbestos sheets were separated,” said Joyce Tickay Rukwava (60).
As the rain and wind continued to pelt the roof, her roof was blown away, and some pieces broke and fell into the house, she narrated.
“There was thunder and lightning, it was a scary sight. I was by myself and I screamed but no one heard me due to the thunderstorm. Some of the neighbours actually heard the startling sounds of asbestos sheets breaking. I was afraid to even leave the house, thinking more disaster was yet to come,” Rukwava said.
“I finally gathered courage and sought refuge from my neighbours. As I opened the door, I also saw a crack by the door where a part of the roof by the hallway had also been blown away. When the rains had stopped, my house was filled with water. I had to use a dish to scoop the water.”
Rukwava said she made a report to the local housing office, who acknowledged receiving reports from other affected residents.
“I was informed the fire brigade will come and install a sail but they did not come. That night it continued raining and thought the water would wash away the house,” she explained.
“All my food groceries that I had – mealie meal, sugar, rice, spaghetti was destroyed including my property.”
As she was narrating the incident, Rukwava started sobbing and had to be consoled by her next-door neighbour Ntombi Hadebe.
“I thank God that I wasn’t hurt. I am grateful to my neighbours who are sheltering and feeding me,” said Rukwava who revealed she is a widow who lives alone after losing all of her family members.
She, however, said officials from the housing office came to her house and took measurements but said they did not have the materials.
“They said these asbestos roofings are not easily found. It then rained again on Wednesday and once again water flooded the place and I had to use a dish to scoop it out after it stopped raining,” she said.
However, some of the water spilt down to the lower floors of the neighbours’ houses.
Another affected resident, Lillian Mpofu (33) said she was not at home when the roof was blown off.
“My children were also not here but are the ones who found the house flooded with water. Their books, food and property were floating in water. What happened here is painful, our houses are small and we now have to cram into one corner as other parts of the rooms are leaking,” she noted.
Mpofu appealed for assistance to repair the roofs and damages.
“Our pleas fall on to the city council to help us fix our roofs. We have no food, our children lost their school books and most of our property is still drenched,” she said.
One of the community leaders of Makokoba Ward 7 and Director of Makokoba Covid-19 (Health and Environment) Task Force, Dingaan Ndlovu urged the relevant departments to take action and serve these families from this detrimental situation.
“The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) must be on alert and provide a quick reaction to take these people to safety,” he said.
“There is a risk of them catching disease from the chills and cold. A family house in Makokoba is small, so when the roof is blown off, it means there is nowhere to hide, cook or pile your property.”
Ndlovu urged CPU structures, reaction teams from BCC departments, especially the Fire Brigade, to be quick in order to minimise risk.
Meanwhile, as the news crew was about to leave, a Fire Brigade crew came to the scene to assess the damage and also took measurements.