Wild winter weather wreaks havoc

2012-07-14 18:33

Roads closed, vehicles go missing and sporting event cancelled

Parts of South Africa ground to a halt yesterday as extreme weather left the country drenched – or white with snow.

Forecasters have warned that the weather is likely to worsen today and in the coming days.

The terrible weather wreaked havoc on the country’s roads.

Ashraf Ismail, Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesperson, said in the Western Cape a search party had been launched for a missing ambulance.

“The ambulance left Beaufort West earlier today en route to Loxton. It’s unclear what became of it,” Ismail said.

Late yesterday, rescue workers were also trying to get to a bus stuck in the snow in the Three Sisters area. The bus was carrying 60 passengers.

Roads were also closed by the weather.

“The N1 between Beaufort West and the N12 is not working in the Western Cape,” said Ismail.

The N12 was closed between Beaufort West and Victoria West.

The Outeniqua pass was also closed because there was no visibility in the area.

The M12 and M9 between Waboomskraal, George and Oudtshoorn was flooded and had to be closed off, and the N2 between Knysna and Wilderness was also closed.

“Disruptions have also been reported on routes leading to George airport because of a flooded bridge,” said Ismail.

In the Eastern Cape, Barkley Pass on the R58 between Barkley East and Elliot was closed, as was the Kraairivier Pass, also on the R58 between Barkley East and Lady Grey.

Snowfall was increasing in Graaff-Reinet, Tsitsikamma and the surrounding passes, the provincial disaster management centre said.

Four people were killed in the province on Friday due to the weather.

Two vehicles collided at the Panhoek Pass, the provincial disaster management centre said.

“We assume the accident was caused by poor visibility and the roads being slippery,” disaster management spokesperson Lungile Qabisisa said yesterday.

“In another incident, four people were left trapped in a snowfall between Molteno and Sterkstroom.
“Police were called in to assist,” said Qabisisa.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality evacuated 20 people from the Missionvale area on Friday.

Officials urged locals in low-lying areas to prepare themselves for possible evacuations.

The City of Cape Town’s Disaster Management Centre said yesterday 560 people had already been displaced by heavy rainfall and flooding.

The extreme weather warning also caused the “heartbroken” organisers of the Knysna Forest Marathon to cancel the race amid safety concerns prompted by heavy rain.

“We are as heartbroken as you are for the event that did not happen. We put nine months of hard work into this so the disappointment runs deep,” read a statement on their website.

In the Eastern Cape, about 20 people were evacuated from their homes in Missionvale after heavy rainfall on Friday.

In Port Elizabeth yesterday, two stages of the Volkswagen Rally had to be cancelled because heavy rain made the course dangerous.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality spokesperson Kupido Baron said yesterday that residents should be prepared in case more people needed to be evacuated.

Only Limpopo and Mpumalanga escaped the extreme weather warnings late on Friday: residents in South Africa’s seven other provinces were told to batten down the hatches.

Cold, wet conditions are expected to persist in most parts of the country into the new week.

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