Soldiers help snowed-in motorists

2011-07-26 23:44
Conditions on the Lootsberg road were tricky today. (News24 User, Fanie Avenant)

Conditions on the Lootsberg road were tricky today. (News24 User, Fanie Avenant)

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Cape Town - The army was called in on Tuesday to help evacuate truck drivers stranded on Van Reenen's Pass after the heaviest snowfalls in KwaZulu-Natal in two decades.

SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said members of the infantry battalion based in Ladysmith helped move vehicles stuck in the pass.

"Heavy duty trucks had blocked the road, but SANDF members have managed to clear the route to allow for the free flow of traffic," Dlamini said.

Farmers were also reported to have chipped in, bringing in tractors to free cars stuck stuck in the snow on the pass. It is estimated to have been up to 1m deep in some places.

Stay off the roads

Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said a national joint operations committee was set up to "deal with any eventuality on the country's roads".

He urged road users, particularly those who intend travelling between Johannesburg and Durban, to postpone their trips until the snow subsides and weather conditions improve.

At one stage The N3 highway between Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal was not accessible for a long stretch between Van Reenen's Pass and Villiers.

A report also said that earlier in the day cars lined up bumper to bumper for a 10km stretch between the Tugela and Van Reenen's tollgates near Ladysmith.

The N3 near Ladysmith had been closed to traffic.

In the Eastern Cape, only a few of the roads closed earlier in the day had been re-opened by nightfall.

Trains cancelled

Rail travel was also disrupted on Tuesday.

Long-distance train services were cancelled due to poor weather, the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) said.

"All trains from Gauteng to Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal will be affected and will result in the cancellation of services," Prasa spokesperson Leonard Potgieter said in a statement.

The Trans Natal, between Johannesburg and Durban, and the Amatola, between Johannesburg and East London, would not run on Tuesday, he said.

Cold conditions continue

The South African Weather Service said snowfall was reported in Lesotho, the Ukuhlamba Drakensberg area, the southern Free State, the Mpumalanga Highveld and the Eastern Cape highground.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the snow is expected to make way for heavy rains and gale force winds.

It will remain extremely cold in the Eastern Cape, and over the southern parts of the Mpumalanga Highveld, with snowfall a possibility.

- Are you affected? Send us your eyewitness accounts and photos
Read more on:    sibusiso ndebele  |  pietermaritzburg  |  bloemfontein  |  east london  |  johannesburg  |  weather  |  transport
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