Massive Middelburg hailstorm dubbed ‘a disaster within a disaster’

Friday's storm couldn’t have come at a worse time - at the start of South Africa’s 21-day coronavirus lockdown. 

The hailstorm that hit Middleburg in Mpumalanga has been described as a “disaster within a disaster”. 

The storm couldn’t have come at a worse time – at the start of South Africa’s 21-day coronavirus lockdown. 

Evidence of the storm’s intensity could be seen by the broken windows of houses and schools, reports Middelburg Observer.

More than 400 windows at Hoërskool Middelburg were destroyed. 

The school’s principal, Johan Stronkhorst, said while he rushed to move his cars to safety during the storm, he looked up and saw pigeons being struck to death by massive hailstones. 

After the storm, the entire property was littered with dead birds, branches and leaves. 

Three roofs at the school were destroyed, and two ceilings collapsed. 

The school’s ‘farm’ was also severely damaged. More than 100 windows were broken, and most of the vegetables were pulverised. 

“At least the corn heads were relatively big, so we should have a harvest,” said Stronkhorst. 

His own vehicle was also damaged. 

His daughter Johandré, a pharmacist, recently bought a new car and it also suffered hail damage. 

“If I say there are 2,000 dents on her car, that’s not a lot,” Stronkhorst said.

It is believed that many windows were also broken at Laerskool Kanonkop at the nearby NG Church. 

Charles Hammilton, a Kanonkop resident, said a tree fell on the roof his house and caused a lot of damage. 

Owner of Konings Padwinkel Carel Jonker said hail built up on his roof, causing water to stream into the ceiling, resulting in a collapse inside his store. 

All the water leaked into his store and a significant amount of damage to his stock was suffered. 

Three of Jonker’s vehicles, which were parked outside his shop, were also damaged. 

Kids@Swim swimming coach Jana Grobler and her husband Kobus looked on helplessly through their kitchen window while their special polycarbonate roofing above the swimming pool was ripped to shreds. 

Their solar panels were also destroyed. 

“The golfball-sized hailstones had sharp points and destroyed everything,” the Groblers said.

“It was a strange storm. There was a noise that sounded like a helicopter taking off, and the next moment, hail began to fall. I thought it was Judgment Day!”

Kanonkop SuperSpar incurred roof damage, and a few vehicles were damaged. 

Although Steve Tshwete Municipality gave permission for three hardware stores to open their doors on Saturday, there are still many people waiting for their broken windows and roofs to be repaired. 

HMJ Glassworx’s Jaco Brits was stopped by members of the traffic department en route to fix windows on Sunday, and was told he was violating lockdown regulations by having one person too many in his bakkie. 

“They spelt out the regulations for me and I understand. The problem is that now I can’t get to clients quickly to fix their broken windows, and they’re starting to get impatient,” Brits said. 

Authorities warned Brits that he does not get to disregard the rules.

There were only meant to be two people in Brits’ bakkie, with one person seated at the back. 

If Brits were to travel with large pieces of glass, however, he will not be allowed to bring anyone with him.

“What would have taken me two or three days to help our town’s people, will now take two weeks, because it’s going to take so long to transport people and goods back and forth. 

“Besides the fact that people are now impatient, which I understand, I must now also expose my workers and my family to this virus for even longer!”

On Friday, Brits was asked to attend to at least 30 houses and many businesses, including the 71 windows broken at Middleburg Observer’s offices.

“I’ve already used three tons of putty and 11 tons of glass from Saturday,” Brits said.

This number excludes the number of windshields Brits will need to repair, which he cannot assist with currently, as he is awaiting deliveries from suppliers. 

Brits said he was proud of his employees, who were willing to stand together and assist the community in the middle of a crisis within a crisis. 

Even his administrative staff members sprung to action. 

Another business assisting with broken windows and windshields is Alucon. Free de Beer said they had also been inundated with requests, and when stopped and asked for his permit on Saturday, he obliged, and was asked to seat an employee travelling with him at the front of the vehicle. 

He agreed that the police were only doing their jobs. 

High call volumes were experienced throughout the weekend, with hundreds of phone calls from Middelburgers wanting to claim for hail damage to their cars and homes. 

This article was translated from Afrikaans by Nica Schreuder. Read the original article here

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