29 March 2005

Cyclone batters South Africa's KZN coast

Several swimmers were injured and shark nets torn from their moorings when the effects of Cyclone Hennie, currently raging in the middle of the Indian ocean, were felt 3 000km further on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

A swimmer from Gauteng had several ribs broken when waves of several metres high crushed him against the sand at Amanzimtoti on Sunday.

Hundreds of other swimmers were stung by bluebottles, sprained joints or sustained grazes because of the strong swells, Jace Govender, spokesperson for Nokia Sea Search and Rescue, said.

The South African freestyle jetski champion, Ricky Sneddon, had a narrow escape at Durban's North Beach on Sunday when he hit the water very hard during a competition and was nearly dragged under.

Sneddon's jetski was shattered when one of the giant waves threw him more than six metres up into the air.

The local leg of the freestyle jetski championships, which forms part of Durban's Easter Adrenaline Beach Festival, as well as a swimming item in the life saving competition had to be cancelled because of the 3m swells.

The big waves were caused by the tropical cyclone Hennie, which hit Mauritius on Thursday, Andy Davidge of the South African Weather Service, explained.

The southeaster and spring tide amplified the strength and size of the waves along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Sea conditions over the weekend also tore shark nets along the South Coast from their moorings and washed them onto the beach. On the North Coast, anglers could not take their boats out to sea, Mike Anderson-Reed, chief executive of the Natal Sharks' Board, said.

The shark nets were restored on Monday.


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