Snowbound

2011-07-27 00:00

A DISASTER warning was issued across KwaZulu-Natal yesterday following the heavist snowfalls to hit the province in almost two decades.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube said the province has been hit by the heaviest snowfalls since 1992.

She called on the central provincial disaster management centre to assist residents affected by the driving rain and snow.

She said mud houses have collapsed in the heavy rains in many parts of the province.

Some areas also suffered power failures, leaving residents without heat and lights in the sub-zero temperatures overnight.

The army was called in to help evacuate truck drivers stranded on Van Reenen’s Pass ahead of gale-force winds that were expected to hit late yesterday.

South African National Defence Force (SANDF) spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said members of the infantry battalion based in Ladysmith helped to move vehicles stuck in the snow on Van Reenen’s Pass.

“Heavy-duty trucks have blocked the road and SANDF members have managed to clear the route to allow for the free flow of traffic,” Dlamini said.

The snow is estimated to have been half a metre to a metre deep in some places.

Dube said, “We are working around the clock with all emergency services and district municipalities to provide aid to those affected, either through whisking them away to safer ground or providing emergency medical help.”

A spokesperson for her department, Lennox Mabaso, said community halls and centres in and around the Amajuba, Ilembe and Sisonke districts are ready to accommodate people who might be forced to abandon their mud houses as the rain and snow continue.

Mabaso discouraged snow sightseers, saying they might get stuck on the roads.

The N3 through the Drakensberg was closed on Monday evening, and truck drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles there.

Farmers from the Free State are reported to have brought in tractors to free cars stuck in the snow on the pass.

One of those stuck was Witness delivery driver Simphiwe Mnisi, who was stranded on the N3 near Mooi River after leaving at about 1 am to deliver newpapers in Estcourt, Ladysmith and Newcastle.

After 11 am he phoned from his vehicle: “This cold is killing me. I’m also hungry as there are no shops where I can buy food.

“I’m stranded about five kilometres from the Mooi River toll gate where we can find shops.”

Weather SA forecaster Wiseman Dlamini said the hardest hit parts of the province for snow were Ladysmith, Newcastle, Underberg, Nottingham Road, Matatiele and Kokstad. There was snow as low down as Balgowan in the Midlands.

Alfred Nzo District municipal spokesperson Mpumzi Zuzile said four full buses and about 20 vehicles with rural commuters were stuck on the R405 between Matatiele and Mount Frere from Monday afternoon until yesterday morning.

Although the rain and snow have caused damage and created havoc on the roads, it hasn’t been all dark and gloomy.

“Streams of cars drove to Nottingham Road, entering what seemed like a dreamland after light snow had blanketed trees, rocks and mountains.

Monique Ric-Hansen, who is from Summerveld near Hillcrest, said she has not seen snow like this in 10 years.

“A couple from Estcourt paused from throwing snowballs to say it was “absolutely awesome” that it was snowing a week before their wedding.

Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said classes were abandoned in several parts of the province, including Impendle, Boston, Elandskop, Balgowan, Colenso, Bergville and parts of the Drakens­berg and the Umzinyathi and Othukela districts.

In the southern Berg most of the schools in Kokstad, Cedarville, Matatiele, Franklin, Swartberg and Underberg were closed.

Weather SA reported that heavy rains fell in some areas. Paddock had 110 mm overnight on Monday, Margate 69 mm, Durban 45 mm and Pietermaritzburg 37,8 mm.

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Numerous trucks and their drivers, as well as buses full of passengers, were stuck on roads throughout the province overnight on Monday and into yesterday. Among the affected roads were the N3, which was closed from the Wilge toll plaza in the Free State to the Tugela plaza in northern KZN, and most roads in the southern Berg and East Griqualand. They included the roads from Cedarville to Matatiele and from Kokstad to Underberg and the N2 from Harding to Mount Ayliff via Kokstad.

KZN Department of Education spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said classes were abandoned in several parts of the province, including Impendle, Boston, Elandskop, Balgowan, Colenso, Bergville and the Drakensberg, as well as parts of the Umzinyathi and Othukela districts.

In the southern Berg, most of the schools in Kokstad, Cedarville, Matatiele, Franklin, Swartberg and Underberg were closed.

Newcastle: soup kitchen set up

RESIDENTS of snowbound Newcastle set up a soup kitchen in a park yesterday to help the homeless and travellers stranded by road closures.

Local businessman Johan Pieters said, “The traffic department called me this morning and asked if we could help out in some way because there were so many cold and hungry people stranded in Newcastle.

“We decided to set up a soup kitchen in the Trimpark.”

A message was posted on social networking site Facebook asking residents to help out by donating bread, coffee and blankets.

“We have soup, coffee and bread. Everyone has pulled together to help,” Pieters said.

Stranded bus passenger Susan Motsoane said, “It’s very cold, we don’t have food and we slept on the bus last night.”

The homeless were also being helped, receiving jerseys, blankets and food.

Brian Masondo said he heard about the facility from a friend.

“I got a nice blanket, I’m happy,” he said with a smile, adding that he would go back to the riverbank where he sleeps. — Sapa.

Power out in Underberg, Nottingham Road, Greytown and Ixopo

SEVERAL areas in the midlands have been without electricity since the early hours of yesterday morning.

Seven electricity networks are reportedly out in Underberg, six in Nottingham Road, two in Greytown and one in the Ixopo area.

The networks generally supply electricity to between 200 and 3 000 people, but sometimes these networks supply electricity to lesser numbers.

Ravi Reddy of Eskom said their technicians are working around the clock to solve the problems.

“If we do not encounter any problems the electricity supply should be restored by Wednesday [today].”

Reddy said the outages are primarily due to the snow.

He said the individual households could help ease the pressure on the supply by turning off their geysers and delaying their dinners till about 8.30 pm. — Witness Reporter.

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