Weather bites hard

Mary Papayya and Mhlaba Memela

Snow and rain brought on by the cold front that hit the country this week wreaked havoc on KwaZulu-Natal roads, with traffic and emergency personnel recording more than 30 road accidents in the past 48 hours.

Community-based organisations also had their hands full, handing out food and blankets to the many homeless people on the province's streets.

As temperatures plummeted, the Salvation Army went out on the streets and fed about 300 homeless adults and children, giving them blankets and clothes.

The Salvation Army's Pastor Johnny Burgoyne said: "In Durban we generally feed more than 2000 people a week. In the last two nights we fed more than 250 in the Cato Manor area alone.

"We have also seen an increase in the number of refugees. With the onset of the strike we have had more children coming to us as well."

In the outlying areas of the region, hundreds of households were without electricity because snow-blocked roads prevented Eskom from reaching them.

Kokstad, which was isolated from the rest of the country by one of the heaviest snowfalls in 10 years, reopened yesterday morning. Mopping up operations continued for most of the day.

Emergency rescue teams said there were more than 10 accidents in Pietermaritzburg and 14 in the greater Durban area.

Seven motorists narrowly escaped death when three trucks and three vehicles collided on the N3 north and south bound near Camperdown, outside Pietermaritzburg.

Two of the injured are in critical condition in hospital.

ER24's Derrick Banks said his team responded to 20 calls in the Durban area.

"These ranged from fender benders to near fatal accidents," he said.

Banks said one major incident on the N2 resulted after a driver lost control of his vehicle when he hit a puddle of water and his 4x4 rolled 50m before landing on the centre of the freeway. He is in a critical condition in hospital.

Netcare 911's Chris Botha said they had been busy since the cold front hit.

"We've attended to more than 10 collisions in the Pietermaritzburg area and 14 in the greater Durban area in the past 24 hours," he said yesterday.