TWO people were killed yesterday when a commuter omnibus parked in Mbare, Harare, was hit by a falling old tree during a thunderstorm that generated intense winds.
This comes as the Meteorological Services Department(MSD) is forecasting the wet spell to spread to all parts of the country until tomorrow.
The two people, who were inside the kombi, bring the weather-related death toll this rainy season to three after a seven-year-old boy was killed when Komba Primary School in Lupane was hit by a storm.
Scattered thunderstorms yesterday occurred in areas along and north of the watershed, with heavier falls reported in Harare Metropolitan, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central provinces.
Notable falls were recorded at Belvedere 31mm, Chibero 26mm, Sanyati 22mm while Kariba and Zvimba both recorded 21mm.
The Mbare accident occurred around 2pm when heavy rains characterised by exceptionally violent winds uprooted old trees in several places around Harare.
When The Herald arrived at the scene, the two bodies were already covered and crowds from the area were jostling to catch a glimpse of the scene.
Police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the names would be released once their next of kin had been informed.
A close friend to the deceased, Ephraime Mandizva, who was with the two only minutes earlier, said he was shocked by what had happened.
“We were together in the vehicle before I decided to go back to work. At first they tried to stop me from going, but I insisted. When I came back, I received the sad news.”
Many trees along roads in older Harare, the area between Josiah Tongogara and Kenneth Kaunda avenues and in Mbare roughly where the tragedy occurred yesterday, were planted in the early 1900s.
Several species, such as the jacaranda, do not live much beyond a century and, in any case, are more vulnerable to storms as they grow older.
After a few decades, trees do not grow taller but broader, creating a greater surface for wind to blow against, and this with the older weaker roots makes uprooting more likely.
In Kariba, roofs were blown off on Sunday night while early yesterday some buildings in Chegutu had their roofs damaged.
Mashonaland West provincial development coordinator Mrs Cecilia Chitiyo said there have not been any major damage except for that in Chegutu and at Kutama in Zvimba District.
In Mashonaland Central, more than 100 families in Kachuta Village, Grey City, Dande Farm, and Flame Lily in Guruve were left homeless, while schools and clinics had roofs blown off by strong winds accompanying heavy rains that pounded the area last Saturday.
The most affected villagers in Ward 18 lost food and inputs they had recently received under the Presidential Input Scheme.
At Chemachinda Primary School, 40km West of Guruve Centre, five houses, a classroom and an administration block were badly damaged while Kachuta Clinic was damaged and medicine at the clinic pharmacy needs to be salvaged.
At Grey City, Dande and Flame Lily farms, most tobacco bans and inputs storages were badly damaged.
Guruve North Member of Parliament Cde Grover Dzapasi said the affected areas needed help.
“Chemachinda Primary School as well as the secondary school have more than 10 blocks which had their roofs blown off, while the infrastructure was also damaged. This includes laboratories and the administration block. Some of the laboratory equipment was also destroyed.
“What makes the situation dire is that the medicine which the clinic received from Natpham recently was badly affected,” he said.
Village head, Mr Minshod Gengezha said their grain stores were not spared.
“We have nowhere to start and we are appealing for food aid. We are also afraid we may experience water-borne diseases,” he said.
The storms destroyed billboards at the Bindura Provincial Magistrates’ Court and affected buildings at N. Richards Wholesalers.
Energy Park Service Station was forced to stop selling fuel after its office was flooded.
In Chipadze high-density suburb, some buildings had their roofs blown off.
District provincial Civil Protection Unit chairman Mr Richard Chipfuva said they were still to receive reports of the damaged property, but said they will send teams to do a property impact assessment.
In a statement yesterday, the Meteorological Services Department said today, it is expected to be cloudy and warm with scattered afternoon and evening thundershowers in Matabeleland North, Midlands, Matabeleland South, northern parts of Manicaland, Bulawayo and Harare Metropolitan as well as all Mashonaland provinces.
Localised heavy downpours cannot be ruled out, especially in Matabeleland South, Masvingo and South of Manicaland.
“Southern districts of Manicaland and Masvingo should be mostly sunny and hot with chances of isolated afternoon thundershowers.
“In case of severe thunderstorms, do not seek shelter under a tree or in isolated sheds as these a prone to lightning strikes. Gusty winds may pose danger being blown off unsecure roofs of classroom blocks and homes. Do not rush outside; it is safe to be under a desk or table,” said the MSD.
Meanwhile, the cloud band affecting Mashonaland provinces and Matabeleland north should spread to cover much of the country.