Sukulwenkosi Dube Plumtree Correspondent—
A WOMAN from Bulilima died and a 33-year-old man was severely burnt when three homesteads in the area were struck by lightning. Gugulethu Dube, 23, failed to escape from a burning hut and was burnt beyond recognition while Bigboy Tshuma, who was in a separate hut at the same homestead, was severely burnt in an incident that occurred at Dupute Village in Makhulela Ward on Friday at around 4PM.
Both Dube and Tshuma were employed as domestic workers at the homestead. Two other huts at two different homesteads in the same village were also struck by lightning but no one was home at the time of the incident.
Tshuma, who survived the incident with severe burns all over his body, said he fled from the burning hut while his clothes were engulfed in flames. He said he took a nap when the rains started and the hut was struck by lightning while he was asleep.
The Chronicle visited Tshuma who is admitted at Plumtree District Hospital and he narrated his near death experience. “I was awakened by screams from people who were shouting and running towards our homestead. At that time the entire roof was in flames and thick smoke had engulfed the room. I had locked the door from inside and out of fear and confusion I failed to open the door on time,” said Tshuma.
“My clothes caught fire and I started burning. When I finally managed to open the door I was already badly injured.” He said he managed to escape but Dube was burnt to death in the kitchen hut.
Tshuma said the rains started at around 2PM and he went to his bedroom hut to sleep while Dube remained in the kitchen hut preparing food. He said the rains persisted for more than an hour.
It started as a drizzle, then turned into a heavy downpour and a hailstorm which was accompanied by fierce winds and lightning. Tshuma said he fell asleep moments after he settled in the bedroom and then woke up to the tragedy.
“They told me that Dube was still in the kitchen hut when lightning struck the kitchen and the bedroom hut I was sleeping in. She failed to make it out of the hut and it was reduced to ashes while she was inside.
“This incident will haunt me for the rest of my life. I’ve burns all over my body and I’m in great pain,” said Tshuma, who spoke with great difficulty. Makhulela area councillor, Nduna Moyo, said the incident had left villagers in shock.
He said three homesteads were struck by lightning on the day. Moyo said two huts were burnt to ashes at the homestead where Dube died, while one hut was burnt to ashes in each of the two other homesteads but no casualties were recorded.
Moyo said although there were no casualties at the other homesteads, the affected families lost their valuables. He said several homesteads in the area were also damaged by severe winds.
Some villagers lost their livestock, he added. “If the rains which we’ve been desperately waiting for can cause such a tragedy then we’re now afraid of what other damage may come the next time it rains in such a manner,” said Moyo.
Bulilima District Administrator, Ethel Moyo, who is also chairperson of the Civil Protection Committee, said a team had been dispatched to assess the damage. She appealed to well-wishers to help the affected families.
The latest incident comes a week after six family members from Nkayi were left with the clothes they were wearing after two of their huts were reduced to ashes by lightning that threw them out of their hut. Also last week, a 61-year-old Gweru man died after being struck by lightning on his way to work during heavy rains that pounded the city.