Weather claims girl’s life, hundreds stranded

2012-08-08 12:39

A three-year-old girl died when the walls of her home collapsed after continuous rain in Bityi, near Mthatha, Eastern Cape, police have said.

“The girl was with her mother when the walls of the house collapsed last night. Fortunately, the mother didn’t die and escaped,” said Lt-Col Mzukisi Fatyela.

He could not confirm any other fatalities or injuries as a result of the weather conditions.

“At this stage, we are still checking our areas and so far it’s quiet, but it’s still raining.”

In KwaZulu-Natal, efforts were under way to evacuate at least 157 people stranded in snow near Kokstad, paramedics said.

“There are a lot of little children, a lot of old people, and lots of people have now got sick. They have been here since yesterday afternoon,” said Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha.

Paramedics and the military were called to the area after reports that a fully-laden bus was stranded.

They found two passenger buses, two trucks and a caravan. The vehicles were being towed up the mountain.

“We are busy loading the people into helicopters and they will be airlifted to the nearest town,” Botha said.

The sick were mostly dehydrated and would be treated by the two paramedics on site.

ER24 spokesman Derrick Banks said paramedics had been working with search and rescue teams to distribute blankets, soup and water – sponsored by Gift of the Givers – to motorists stuck in the snow along the N3.

“Paramedics said as far as they could see there are cars stuck along the N3,” Banks said.

He was unsure of the number of people stuck, and whether there had been any fatalities. One of the ER24 response cars got stuck in Nottingham Road, just off the N3, while on its way to a call-out.

The military had been placed on standby in KwaZulu-Natal because of snowfall in the area, the defence department said.

“We are on standby in the Harrismith area, around Ladysmith and Van Reenen’s pass in particular,” spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said.

He said the military was also ready to help in the Eastern Cape, around the Maluti area, near Kokstad.

The N3 Toll Concession said parts of the highway between Johannesburg and Durban were still closed this morning because of the snow.

“We have had to close the N3 toll route from the Wilge toll plaza to the Cedara interchange near Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal,” spokesperson Andy Visser said.

“This is due to heavy snowfall and treacherous weather conditions. Vehicles have already been snowed in overnight close to Mooi River.”

They would first ensure conditions were safe before sending emergency vehicles to help stuck motorists.

“We understand that it is a long weekend, but we urge motorists to please not travel until the weather conditions improve, in the interests of their safety,” Visser said.

SA Weather Service forecaster Jan Vermeulen said isolated showers and rain was predicted over Gauteng, North West, the Free State, southern Mpumalanga, the western half of Eastern Cape, and the southern part of Western Cape for today.

There were forecasts of scattered to widespread rain or snow over KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern part of the Eastern Cape.

It would be very cold over the southeast and eastern interior, and heavy rainfalls are expected over southern KwaZulu-Natal.

“For tomorrow we don’t expect any rain over the country. Sunny weather and no alerts.”

Friday’s weather was also predicted to be sunny and warmer.

There was a cold front approaching the Western Cape which would bring rain over the area, but fine weather was predicted for the rest of the country.

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