Could shoddy eThekwini work be blamed for La Mercy house collapse?
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DURBAN - SHODDY work by the eThekwini Municipality’s Water and Sanitation employees has been blamed for the extensive damage to a La Mercy property that has left a family shaken and homeless.
Monday night’s heavy rains burst a stormwater drain that runs between two properties on Twilight Avenue and into a nearby lagoon.
Anita and Brett Reddy’s two children were sent to stay with relatives on Tuesday but the couple remained in the house, which was damaged after the ground on the side of the property was split in two by the huge volume of water that tore through it.
It is alleged that two weeks ago the water and sanitation team opened a drain system next to a brick wall of the now partially collapsed house, and allegedly failed to close it properly.
Anita Reddy said the water and sanitation team was replacing pipes that were going to join the drain system from the nearby Anton Lembede Mathematics, Sciences and Technology Academy.
“The structure had no support. We lodged a complaint with the eThekwini Municipality on August 29, 2021, about the unclosed trench, but nothing was done to fix it until the house collapsed.”
One bedroom, an en-suite toilet, bathroom and a passage were completely wiped out by the floods.
Reddy’s husband Brett said the pipes were not laid properly, and the water from the top drain was not being channelled to the new pipe. At the scene, the couple were preparing to evacuate the house.
Nazir Sadack, who heads the volunteer organisation Community Emergency Response Team, said the municipality was assessing the damage.
He said the stormwater drain gave way at about midnight on Monday and eroded the soil, which then caused the boundary wall to collapse.
“And then, at around 7 this morning (on Tuesday) that entire section, which is a quarter of the home, literally washed away.”
Sadack said the Reddy family was a bit traumatised.
“So the first port of call is to just try to get them a place to stay,” he said.
Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the Reddy’s allegations were incorrect.
“We are not aware of any work that was being carried out by Water and Sanitation. However, we are with the family as they are going through this difficult time. It is the summer season and our city is notorious for incidents of disaster.”
He said the municipality ran summer awareness campaigns to inform people that eThekwini was susceptible to natural disasters.
“As a caring city, following this disaster we will always be available when we are required to offer much-needed help for the welfare of our residents, and also to save lives where the need arises.”
He said that municipal teams were on the ground assessing the situation.
“We are unaware of any damages in other areas, with the exception of the La Mercy house,” Mayisela said.
“It should be noted that the cause of the erosion, based on the investigation of our engineers, was not from the recent work that was done in the area.”
He said the municipality’s Coastal Stormwater and Catchment Management department had been working in the area, and the work was adjacent to the house that had partially collapsed.
“The existing stormwater system was an open drain running parallel to the resident’s boundary wall in the valley line. This open drain was replaced with a pipe. No excavation took place below the level of the existing open drain as the pipe was installed immediately at the same level as this open drain,” Mayisela said.
He said the department was not aware of any complaint made on August 29. “The construction work was almost completed except for the placing of covers to the manholes, as well as vegetation.”
Provincial Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi confirmed the damage to the house, and said engineers were compiling their report.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesperson Senzo Mzila said the La Mercy house collapse was the only incident reported in the province.
“However, the status quo might change as we are still collecting reports from various areas across the province.”