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A couple, their six-month-old baby, two paramedics and scores of motorists have been trapped in their cars in freezing temperatures since Tuesday.
Fears are mounting for the safety of the six-month-old after reports that the couple did not have any water to mix baby formula.
The baby’s father is also said to be asthmatic.
The family’s car got stuck in the snow on the N3 a few kilometres from the Mooi River Toll Plaza.
Heavy snowfalls and slippery roads stopped traffic between Durban and Johannesburg.
Temperatures dropped to –1ºC in the Midlands area on Tuesday night, the SA Weather Service reports.
Motorists have been reported to be stranded at Mooi River, Nottingham Road and Underberg.
Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesman, Lennox Mabaso, said MEC Nomusa Dube would be accompanying disaster management teams to Underberg this mor-ning to assist more than 40 people trapped in cars and buses.
He said the SANDF had been deployed to areas in northern KZN on Wednesday morning.
“They will be assisting our teams in clearing snow and rescuing people who are trapped,” he said.
The two ER24 paramedics who responded to the couple’s distress call have also been trapped in their emergency vehicle since 11pm.
Ryan Mash, 22, and Matthew Parsley, 20, said they were snowed in near Nottingham Road.
They described the cold and overnight conditions in the car as unbearable.
“Thankfully, we have a full tank of fuel. We have kept the car idling and have the heater on,” said Mash.
They said they had no idea when they would be rescued.
“Fortunately, we are about 500m from a garage shop. We have been able to buy pies, chips and water – and use the bathroom,” he said.
Mash said they had received the frantic call for assistance from the couple late Tuesday night.
“They are still stuck out there, about 5km before the Mooi Plaza. We were told that they had run out of food for the baby,” he said.
The couple had been travelling from Johannesburg to Durban, said Mash.
“The mother said they had run out of water for the baby’s powdered formula.
“We advised them to get some ice from outside and warm it over the heater. The baby would have to drink the lukewarm mixture.”
He said it was unclear whether the family had any blankets or sufficient nappies for the baby.
Rescue teams in Mooi River were also trying to get to the distraught family, Mash said.
He estimated that at least 60 trucks and 15 cars were stranded along Nottingham Road.
“Some cars are stuck in ditches, but I’ve been walking around and people are safe and warm,” he said.
Mash said their friends and families had been concerned about their safety but they had been giving them regular updates via BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).
Parsley said he was longing for a hot bath.
The pair were using the heater to dry off, after getting wet in the snow.
“I came prepared with gumboots, but Matt’s now got wet socks!” said Mash with a laugh.