Snowed-in Van Reenen reopens after two days

2011-07-28 00:00

VAN Reenen’s Pass was finally cleared of snow at about 1 pm yesterday after the road was closed on Monday evening.

Many road users, especially truckers, were trapped in a tailback stretching several kilometres.

On Tuesday evening rescue teams decided to ferry truck drivers to Ladysmith Utility Hall for the night as it was feared that winds of about 90 km/h could hit the area, putting the truckers in further danger.

However, not all the truckers were taken to the place of safety.

Hennie Greeff and his assistant, Jonas Modise, opted to stay with their truck after it broke down on Saturday as they travelled from Durban to Pretoria.

“When the pass was closed on Monday and plans put in place to ferry drivers to Ladysmith on Tuesday, I decided against that. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing my cargo so I let the others go while I stayed behind,” said Greeff.

Several drivers didn’t spend Tuesday evening with their trucks by choice, and some complained of being “abandoned” by rescue teams and blamed disaster management for poor co-ordination of the operation.

Romeo Manhanda said he heard the announcement that gale-force winds were expected, but no one came to pick them up from the top of the pass. He was travelling to Pretoria when he got stuck in the snow.

“I was stuck here since Monday evening when the pass was closed. We heard the talk about the wind and thought since the dangers of being caught here are known, we will all be taken to the place of safety.

“I’m so disappointed with the disaster management team … for not having effective communication measures in place. Also, I didn’t see a contingency plan in place because while we were here throughout the evening no one had bothered to check if we are fine,” said Manhanda.

About the delays in clearing the snow he said, “You would expect the clearing team to work throughout the night, but they were nowhere to be seen. They only started this morning.”

A senior provincial traffic officer who asked not to be named said those who remained at the pass chose to.

“We made provisions for every trucker, but some refused to go down to Ladysmith,” said the officer.

Rajesh Sharaj of Sharaj Ambulances in Ladysmith said an ambulance taking a patient from Johannesburg to Durban was trapped on Monday evening.

“The patient was oxygen-dependent. He had spinal fractures and we had to provide oxygen for him. There were also hypothermia patients but, there were no serious incidents,” he said.

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