A powerful storm blew through the community of Howick, tearing down trees and leaving a mess; the community helped fund the clean-up process.
Howick, South Africa (23 January 2024) – A brutal storm with hail and winds, which a nearby yacht club measured at 125km/hour, wreaked havoc in the leafy KZN Midlands town of Howick last Wednesday afternoon, 17 January. In a matter of minutes, dozens of towering trees had been uprooted or broken, properties were damaged, roads were blocked, and powerlines were torn down throughout the town, plunging it into darkness.
As soon as the wind and hail had died, the community rallied and the urgent buzz of chainsaws filled the air as groups of people began to clear their streets. Rock Power, the service provider contracted to the uMngeni Municipality, had its staff out assessing the damage and starting the repairs. uMngeni Municipality had teams deployed to assist with traffic control and clearing trees that were strewn across the roadways. Within 30 minutes, the first of the trees had been cleared – men, women, and children were out doing whatever they could to help.
“This,” says Matt Hogarty, the founder and CEO of Love Howick NPC, working within the community, skills, environmental and economic development spheres, “is once again a testament to the character of South Africans – our ability to face the worst and come back stronger!”
Love Howick has a memorandum of understanding in place with uMngeni Municipality to assist with infrastructure and maintenance in public spaces.
“The effectiveness of this public-private partnership was highlighted when in the wake of the storm, Love Howick was able to send 150 of its staff, interns and IDC teams to assist the town with its clean up,” says Hogarty.
The teams in their red Love Howick shirts and overalls were unmissable as they swept through parks and streets. They also helped schools, people living alone and other organisations with their clean-up efforts.
Zuzokhuhle informal settlement, situated near Tweedie, was also hard hit, with a number of homes destroyed by trees that had blown over during the storm. The uMngeni Municipality Disaster response responded with disaster relief materials and Love Howick sent a team to assist and support these relief operations.
“Thursday was an incredible experience. People arrived from everywhere to help. Businesses sent huge trucks to help cart debris. More than 100 tons of brush and chopped-up trees were delivered to the landfill. More than 50 chainsaws worked non-stop, manned by residents, business people, garden services, the municipality and Love Howick – in total more than 2,000 were there on Thursday and Friday to help with the clean-up,” explains Barbara Dommett, who coordinated the disaster relief team from Love Howick.
There is still much work to be done. Five days after the storm, the sound of chainsaws is still heard. Residents have secured or made makeshift repairs to their properties while they await their insurance claims to be approved. Heaps of branches, leaves and other organic debris are waiting for collection.
“The delay is simply due to resources,” explains Sarah van Heerden, the Love Howick Marketing Manager.
“Thursday dawned with a fleet of vehicles supplied by various entities, however, many of them were not available on Friday or this week. An unplanned event, such as a disaster, is impossible to prepare or budget for and resources, including funds are quickly depleted as we mobilize teams into action.”
“We are fortunate to have a supportive and dynamic community behind us, which has lessened the financial blow, but our daily operational funds have still taken a serious hit and we do need more assistance, not only to finish the clean-up but to recoup some of what we spent during the disaster relief mobilization.
“When it comes to our community, our people, in crisis, we will never say no! We will always ‘maak n plan’ and trust that things work out. At Love Howick, we believe that anything is possible when we work together. While what our community experienced during this storm was terrifying, but what happened in the aftermath, once the wind and hail were gone, was an inspiration. The response was a testament to the power of community… the power of our people. The people of Howick proved that when we unite in kindness, we are unstoppable,” concludes van Heerden.
Anyone wishing to assist Love Howick can do so via BackaBuddy at https://www.backabuddy.co.za/donate/charity/lhw or by EFT to:
Love Howick NPC
Cheque Account: 627 747 27 039
Branch Code: 220 725
Swift Code: FIRNZAJJ