Johannesburg - At least two people – including a three-year-old girl – are believed to have died and scores of others were left stranded in snowbound areas following two days of extreme weather across the country.
The young girl died when the walls of her home collapsed after continuous rain in Bityi, near Mthatha, Eastern Cape police said.
“The girl was with her mother when the walls of the house collapsed on Tuesday night. The mother escaped,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela.
In KwaZulu-Natal, police are investigating an inquest docket after a man was found dead – covered by snow – in the Khokhwane area, in Elandskop near Pietermaritzburg.
It is unclear whether he died as a result of the weather, but police say there were no visible injuries on the body.
The weather meant paramedics and rescue workers were kept busy.
More than 150 people were stranded in snow near Kokstad and had to be rescued, Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said. In one area, paramedics and the military were called after reports that a full bus was stranded.
They found two passenger buses, two trucks and a caravan. The vehicles were being towed up a mountain.
“There are a lot of little children, a lot of old people, and lots of people have now got sick. They have been here since Tuesday afternoon.”
Joburg, while cold on Wednesday, did not experience any further snowfalls.
Following heavy snowfalls, the N3 toll route, including Van Reenen’s Pass, was closed to traffic, leaving motorists little option but to wait it out on the roadside. ER24 spokesman Derrick Banks said paramedics had been working with search-and-rescue teams to distribute blankets, soup and water – sponsored by Gift of the Givers – to motorists stuck in the snow along the N3.
A pair of paramedics trying to rescue a couple and a six-month-old baby stuck in freezing temperatures on Tuesday ended up being trapped in the snow for more than 24 hours themselves near the Mooi River toll plaza.
The two ER24 paramedics, Ryan Mash, 22, and Matthew Parsley, 20, responded to the couple’s distress call on Tuesday evening after they said their car was trapped on the N3 near the plaza.
Fears had mounted for the safety of the baby following reports that while the couple had baby formula with them, they did not have any water to mix it. The baby’s father was also believed to be asthmatic.
But on Wednesday, the couple met up with other cars trapped nearby and managed to free themselves from the snow. Parsley and Mash were not so lucky, and arrived back in Pietermaritzburg only at 3pm.
The medics estimated that their car had been one of at least 60 trucks and 15 cars stranded along Nottingham Road.
In Harrismith, truckers, taxi drivers and passengers spent the night either in the cabs of the vehicles, huddled in the forecourts of petrol stations or at the police station.
The N3 was officially reopened by 3pm yesterday, the N3 toll concession said.
All roads and toll roads in the Eastern Cape had also been reopened, Arrive Alive said.
“Everything has been reopened, but the possibility of them being closed again is very high. It is snowing on-and-off here,” said spokesman Tshepo Machaea.
The weather also saw passenger trains between Durban and Joburg being cancelled.
Passenger Rail Agency of SA spokesman Lawrence Venkile said alternative transport arrangements would not be arranged as the roads to these provinces were also closed.
SA Weather Service forecaster Jan Vermeulen said no rain was expected across the country today or tomorrow. - The Star, Sapa