15 July 2012

South Africa: Five Killed in Weather Related Incidents

PHOTO ESSAY: Lesotho Snowfalls

Johannesburg — Five people were killed as snowfall and heavy rainfall battered parts of the country at the weekend.

The Free State, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape were the worst affected provinces.

Flooding and power failures persisted, motorists became stranded and evacuations increased. A rescue also had to be carried out in Lesotho.

Eastern Cape police spokesman Mzukisi Fatyela said a man, 69, and a woman, 44, froze to death in Mqanduli and Mthatha and were found lying on different roadsides on Sunday morning.

It was believed the cold weather made it difficult for them to walk to their destinations.

Three others drowned in Port Elizabeth, SABC radio reported. Details on the drownings were not immediately available.

In Lesotho, paramedics responded to distress calls after 41 people were trapped in the Butha Buthe pass en route to Afri-Ski and the Oxborn Lodge, ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak said.

Rescuers arrived at the scene at 11am on Sunday.

Disaster management teams had their hands full trying to assist motorists stuck on the roads.

"They found that almost 30 vehicles were either stuck, or involved in collisions as they skidded on the icy surface," said Vermaak.

The scene stretched out over 1.5 kilometres and multiple people were found with slight hypothermia and dehydration.

One person was a diabetic whose medication had run out and was in need of urgent help. Another person with asthma was also treated.

All 41 were transported to a temporary clinic erected in Fouriesburg.

The downpour in Port Elizabeth led in the evacuation of about 2,000 people.

"The number of evacuations increased from 740 on Saturday night to almost 2,000 [on] Sunday morning due to flooding. More moderate showers are expected today," said city spokesman Kupido Barron.

The municipality said Kleinskool, Salt Lake, Missionvale, Nooitgedacht, Motherwell, Kuyga and Wells Estate were the worst affected areas.

Barron said many areas were still without electricity and the municipality was working on restoring it.

"We would like to reiterate the call to residents to remain safely indoors as even more showers will cause water levels to rise quickly," said Barron.

In the Western Cape, motorists were stranded due to road closures and flooding. Roads that closed included the N1 near Beaufort West, the N12 at Victoria West, the R61 between Graaff-Reinet and Cradock, and the N6 between Jamestown and Aliwal North.

The N1 and N12 have since been reopened.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation urged motorists to use caution and refrain from taking unnecessary risks as roads were slippery and heavily congested across the country.

"We want to appeal to [people to] keep within speed limits, adjust speeds according to prevailing conditions and to maintain safe following distances and be extremely careful when overtaking,"said spokesman Ashraf Ismail.

Disaster management teams had their hands full trying to assist motorists stuck on the roads.

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