Jackson - May 2008
the night of 11 March, 2008, many people in Durban woke with
a start to an awesome display of thunder, lightning and heavy
our way in Hillcrest, the storm was one of the most intense
I can remember and it caused untold damage round and about
the city. In addition to the usual flood damage, operations
at the two oil refineries in the South Durban were brought
to a halt, with 168mm of rain having fallen at the Engen refinery
in just a few hours.
reported a city official as saying that a storm of that severity
could be classified as a one-in-50-year or even a one-in-100-year
event. The estimate is not that far off the mark as I found
recently, when reading a copy of an historic booklet sent
to me, via Scott Silburn, by my informant Barry Willan.
is an illustrated souvenir of the 'Great Storm' of 31 May,
1905, and was published sometime after that by the Central
News Agency, at the price of one shilling. The booklet says
of the storm that 'it suddenly swept hundreds of human beings
to destruction' and 'constitute[s] the most appalling display
of the forces of Nature in her wilder mood that stands recorded
in the history of South Africa'.
describes how rain began to fall at 4pm and how, soon after
that, pedestrians were battling to walk against the gale and
that their umbrellas overcoats provided no protection from
the driving rain.
hard for most of the evening and stressed the Pinetown reservoir
to the point that it burst, at some time after midnight, and
released millions of tons of water to rampage its way into
Durban bay, following the line of least resistance along the
valleys of the Umbilo and Umhlatuzan rivers.
to the interior were cut and the telegraph service, Durban's
only link with the outside world, was interrupted. The whole
town had been battered by the storm but those who brunt of
the tragedy were the Indian communities living in the low-lying
areas next to the Umbilo River and at South Coast Junction,
where many dwellings were swept away. It was initially estimated
that 50 people had lost their lives but the booklet speculated
that the eventual toll was likely to be closer to 500 than
destroyed by the 1905 storm, a double-storied house
in Botanic Gardens Road.
Click to view enlargement.
in the bay was affected with the dredger Sandpiper being sunk,
the Bluff ferry fleet wrecked and many yachts destroyed. Roofs
were blown off all over town and trees were uprooted in Albert
to the railway bridge at Phoenix on the North Coast line had
given way, and a locomotive had run into the river, drowning
the fireman. Around 10,5 inches of rain fell in Durban and
over 15 inches fell in Pinetown during that terrible night.
of the province fared no better, having been struck by gale
force winds, intense cold and heavy snow which blanketed the
area from Hilton Road Station to the Berg. Livestock died
in droves from the cold and crops, including wattle, were