A weekend of wild weather around the country left five people dead, motorists stranded overnight on snowy roads, displaced 2 000 Port Elizabeth residents from their homes and inspired others to search for outdoor thrills.
Emergency service ER24 headed to Lesotho on Sunday morning after receiving numerous distress calls from motorists trapped on the Butha Buthe pass on the way to the Afri-Ski mountain resort and Oxbow Lodge, said ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak.
Paramedics found nearly 30 vehicles stuck, or having been involved in collisions after skidding on ice, in a scene that stretched 1.5km.
“People were found with slight hypothermia and dehydration. One of the patients was a diabetic and needed urgent assistance as his medication was running out. Another was treated for asthma. A heavily pregnant woman and a child with croup were also assessed,” said Vermaak.
The 4×4 Club helped the emergency workers get to some areas.
By the end of the day, 41 people had been taken to a temporary clinic near Fouriesburg. Once medically cleared, they were taken to guesthouses in the area.
Countrywide, the worst-hit areas were the Free State and Eastern and Western Cape. Most areas were affected by the cold. The Eastern Cape also suffered floods.
Five people were reported killed around the country.
Police spokesman Mzukisi Fatyela said a man, 69, and a woman, 44, froze to death in Mqanduli and Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. They were found lying on different roadsides on Sunday morning.
Three others drowned in Port Elizabeth, SABC radio reported.
By Sunday morning, road closures and flooding were so bad in Port Elizabeth that 2 000 people had been evacuated. More heavy rain was expected in the Eastern Cape on Monday and residents were advised to avoid low-lying areas.
Extreme weather in Port Elizabeth didn’t deter two men from taking to the floodwaters in inflatable boats. The adventurous pair shocked officials when they were spotted on CCTV boating down a closed city road.
They were not the only daredevils refusing to stay at home. Nelson Mandela Bay municipality spokesman Kupido Baron said when officials went in pursuit of the pair, they found seven canoeists.
In Joburg, temperatures plummeted but there were no reports of weather-associated deaths.
Eskom spokeswoman Hilary Joffe said the only blackouts had been in the Eastern Cape and parts of the Western Cape, where weather conditions were too dangerous for mechanics to do repairs.
Joffe said due to road closures in the Eastern Cape and parts of the Western Cape, they had to use off-road vehicles and helicopters to access some areas.
Joffe said they had not experienced problems with over-demand on the grid, but with the cold weather continuing, the grid would be tight on Monday.
Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesman Ashref Ismail said the N1 between Beaufort West and Richmond, and the N12 between Beaufort West and Victoria West in the Western Cape, were still closed on Sunday afternoon because of heavy snow.
SA Weather Service forecaster Edwin Thema said no more snow was predicted, but cold temperatures would continue through to Wednesday in large parts of the country.
Vereeniging was predicted to be the coldest place on Sunday night, with temperatures of minus 4ºC, while Joburg was expected to drop to minus 1ºC.
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