Many guests who ate at a restaurant on the KwaZulu-Natal coast on Sunday tried to get away in fear when a giant wave flooded the restaurant.
The wave hit the Mariners restaurant on Marine Beach at around 4pm, pushing everyone in the eatery to the back of the building. When the water receded, one person was swept away by the current.
“The quick response of lifeguards meant that the person was rescued from the sea,” says the emergency service operator KZN Private Ambulance.
According to eyewitnesses, the rising water washed through the restaurant again after the first devastating wave.
Paramedics later examined guests for injuries after the water receded.
“A total of five people sustained serious injuries. The patients were treated and stabilized at the scene before being taken to a hospital.”
The security and emergency service operator Mi7 National Group, which was also at the scene, says two more people suffered minor injuries and did not require hospital treatment.
The emergency services company warned people to avoid beaches until it is safe again.
A restaurant in Kalk Bay in the Cape Peninsula also went through on Sunday when a wave burst over a tidal pool and poured through the restaurant.
Charlotte Powell, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town’s disaster management centre, says one person at the Brass Bell restaurant was injured in the incident.
“There is damage to the seating area of the restaurant, windows are broken and the tidal pool is full of sand and stones,” she says.
“The restaurant is partially closed while staff are busy with clean-up work.”
SANParks says freak waves have also hit the Tsitsikamma National Park. This led to widespread damage and walkers had to be taken to safety from a section of the Garden Route.
Rey Thakhuli, spokesperson for SANParks, says parts of the temporary restaurant structure in the Tsitsikamma park were swept away by the sea current, or suffered other serious damage. The restaurant is now closed.
Walkers on the Otter walking trail were also guided to safety on designated escape routes to avoid possible freak waves.
The Waterfall walking route and the Stormsriviermond route have meanwhile been temporarily closed to ensure the safety of walkers. However, the Stormsriviermond rest camp remains open to the public.
Parts of the Wilderness and Knysna have also been affected by the turbulent conditions, but Thakhuli says infrastructure in these parts of the national park has minimal damage.
“The park management is busy with a damage assessment so that operations can be resumed as soon as possible,” he says.
The Nature’s Valley rest camp has since been closed after it was also hit by freak waves. The camp will be reopened as soon as it is safe.
The latest incidents are among the many caused by the spring tide on the coast this past weekend.
An elderly woman died on Saturday at Leentjiesklip in the Wilderness area when she was presumably knocked off her feet by a freak wave during high tide.
Dangerous freak waves also caused damage in, among others, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Sandy Bay, Drieankerbaai, Gordonsbaai, Jongensfontein, Heroldsbaai and George.
The South African Weather Service (SAWD) issued another warning on Monday for “devastating waves” on parts of the coast.
A yellow level 2 warning has been issued for coastal areas of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The weather service says turbulent conditions are expected from Plettenberg Bay to Richards Bay.