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Infants among victims

By unknown | May 23, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Sowetan Reporters

Sowetan Reporters

The biting winter weather has left scores of people dead from exposure to extreme cold or incinerated by the flames of indoor braziers. Others have been trapped for hours by snowdrifts.

By last night at least 12 people, including two infants, were reported dead in fires, and from exposure to the cold, in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

The Eastern Cape is apparently the hardest hit after persistent freezing and wet conditions claimed eight lives. Three fires killed four people in Gauteng yesterday.

Temperatures plummeted as the first cold front of the winter hit the country. In some areas, temperatures fell to below zero.

Eighteen-month-old Fikiswa and three-week-old Kwaziyena Gabuza were burnt to death in their parents' shack in Nancefield, Soweto.

The babies were left alone in the shack while their mother was fetching water from a nearby hostel.

Emergency services spokesman Malcolm Midgley said the fire was started by an illegal electricity connection.

In Sandton, Johannesburg, a man died and another was in a serious condition in hospital after inhaling fumes from a brazier.

A woman died and 20 other elderly people were treated for smoke inhalation after a fire gutted the Huiskroondal old age home in Pretoria yesterday. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Four men died in different incidents in Port Elizabeth, said the police.

Captain Ernest Sigobe said the four were found without shelter, had no visible injuries and were believed to have died of exposure.

One man was found in Zwide, another in Walmer, a third in Greenbushes and the fourth in Motherwell.

Two men were found dead in two villages in Cofimvaba, Eastern Cape, on Monday night. Police spokesman Gcinikaya Taleni said both men had failed to get home after attending traditional ceremonies in neighbouring villages.

Two bodies were found in Zwelitsha township, King William's Town. Police spokesman Captain Thozama Solani said the cold weather could not be ruled out as the cause of the deaths because both men had no visible injuries.

Heavy snow left scores in Kokstad's Bhongweni township without electricity. Snow blanketed Mount Currie and the Brook-Nek range in KwaZulu-Natal and the area was buffeted with cold, dry winds.

A bus was trapped in the snow in Lootsberg Pass, between Graaff Reinet and Middelburg, in the Eastern Cape.

Captain Erris Claasen said there were 45 passengers on the City to City bus, which was trapped at about 6pm on Monday.

The driver tried to get through the Lootsberg Pass despite it being closed because of the snow.

The passengers were rescued yesterday by police in four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The Weather Services' senior manager for forecasting, Mnikeli Ndabambi, said the current weather conditions were caused by a cold front from the South Pole and that most of the country would remain cold for the rest of this week with temperatures close to zero and below.

He said it would begin to get warmer at the weekend.


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