Fear grips Orkney community after earthquake

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Bhekumusi Thobela points to the damage in his home on 06 August 2014 in Khuma, Orkney. The North West township was the epicentre of the 5.5-magnitude earthquake that hit South Africa on Tuesday.

Bhekumusi Thobela points to the damage in his home on 06 August 2014 in Khuma, Orkney. The North West township was the epicentre of the 5.5-magnitude earthquake that hit South Africa on Tuesday.

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Bhekumusi Thobela points to the damage in his home on 06 August 2014 in Khuma, Orkney. The North West township was the epicentre of the 5.5-magnitude earthquake that hit South Africa on Tuesday.

Bhekumusi Thobela points to the damage in his home on 06 August 2014 in Khuma, Orkney. The North West township was the epicentre of the 5.5-magnitude earthquake that hit South Africa on Tuesday.

ORKNEY - The community of Khuma, in Orkney, is still shaken a day after a 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit South Africa on Tuesday afternoon.

The North West town was the epicentre of the quake, and suffered damage to  around 400 homes.

On Tuesday, North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo said residents would be evacuated to places of safety by emergency services personnel.

However, most families in the community say they had to sleep in their damaged homes as emergency services did not make it to their houses.

People from emergency services did not come to check my house at all. I saw them checking other houses but they did not come to my house,” said MaKatleho Base.

The 38-year-old says her family of seven feared for their lives.

“We slept in the house and we were scared. We slept together on one bed thinking it might happen again and I was worried. I was worried that the wall will fall and we slept with the lights on and the radio so we can listen to the news,” she said.

Her neighbor Doreen Qankase and her family of four also spent the night concerned. She says her children are traumatised. 

Qankase said, “We slept in the house and prayed that it doesn’t happen again. We were scared. We slept with lights on and my children were scared.

"I had to give them sugar water to calm them down and today they said they don’t want to go to school because they are scared,” said Qankase.

The Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality has sent teams to parts of the municipality to assess the damage caused.

Community Based Planner, Wandiswa Zitwane, said, “I am going house to house checking the damage so I can report back to the municipality so they can provide assistance. I have seen 30 houses since yesterday and we will do so the whole day.”

She said she has assessed 30 houses since Tuesday.

“It was a disaster, I don’t have words but it was a disaster. Even I was fearing for my life,” she said.

But as the municipality works to assist affected families, residents like 60-year-old Bhekumusi Thobela say they fear their houses will get more damaged if they are not fixed soon.

“Emergency services did not come to see our house. We spent the night in the house with my three children. I didn’t sleep because I was worried that the house will collapse,” he said.

SCHOOLS

A school in the area, Vuyani Mawethu, was extensively damaged, with its computer lab being hit particularly hard. Education officials are at present working on assessing and assisting additonal schools in the area.

Hasimbhay Motara, Director of Education  in the DR Kenneth Kaunda district, said, "From my assessment of visiting many of the schools, many of the primary schools are functional, they are running, there is teaching  and learning taking place.

There are two schools that I have assessed...as problematic schools where the walls are not safe for the learners to be in the classroom right now...but essentially by tomorrow hopefully most of the schools will be functional."

Motara thanked the Premier’s office and the MEC’s office of education for sending out people to do a general assessment of the costs required to do renovations and repairs to the buildings. Both the mayor and Premier Mahumapelo had visited schools to assess the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake.

Motara also said that all reports indicate that no students or teachers were injured in the earthquake. He said, "Let us appreciate the role of many of the principals and teachers who played a pivotal role in ensuring that the emergency drill that has been taking place at the schools was very effective in many of the primary schools.

"With regards to the trauma, we are going to assess which of the schoolchildren are still in a dilemma. We are fully aware that the absenteeism rate at this point in time might still be a little bit high, but hopefully by tomorrow we will be able to assist all those people that need assistance in any way whatsoever."

Motara said that many of the schools, because of the trauma that the learners underwent, took them to the clinics but that none of the learners, teachers or officials of the department were injured in any way whatsoever.