70 dead in easter rush

Sne Masuku, McKeed Kotlolo and Sapa

At least 70 people were killed in road accidents over the Easter weekend, and traffic volumes were steadily increasing by yesterday morning, traffic officials said.

Transport authorities have warned of increasing volumes on national roads over the next 24 hours as holidaymakers head home.

ER24 paramedics said that since early yesterday, scores of fender bender accidents had been reported nationwide.

Ntau Letebele, spokesman for the national Transport Department, said their biggest concern was overloading and speeding on freeways.

"Volumes are beginning to build up at tollgates and motorists can expect delays," he said.

"In terms of overloading, it's mostly the taxis [at fault], and in terms of speeding we find it's the motorists."

He stressed that traffic authorities "were out in full force" to ensure safety on the roads.

Letebele said the national death toll would be made known once figures from all provinces had been collated.

Spokesman for the KwaZulu-Natal transport department Zinhle Mngomezulu said: "Traffic congestion on the N3 freeway is a huge problem."

Mngomezulu said at least 25 people had been killed in the province in 16 different accidents.

The Western Cape department's Makhaya Mani said 11 road fatalities had been reported over the weekend.

Despite the decrease in the number of road accidents on KwaZulu-Natal's roads, the death toll was only down by three compared to last year.

The province recorded 10 accidents less than last year, when the province recorded 25 accidents and 28 deaths.

This year, since the start of the Easter holidays on Friday until yesterday, there were 15 accidents and about 25 people killed on the province's roads.

Chris Hlabisa, departmental head of transport, said yesterday that though road accidents had been reduced by 10, the number of people killed had only been reduced by three.

By 11am yesterday there were 2157 vehicles passing through the Marianhill toll plaza an hour, leaving Durban.

In Limpopo, a traffic officer was run over and killed by a bakkie at the entrance to the Zion Christian Church in Moria outside Polokwane on Saturday afternoon. A speeding and allegedly drunk motorist had failed to stop and knocked down the officer, killing him instantly.

Boiki Tsedu, spokesman for the Limpopo department of roads and transport, said the motorist was driving from Tzaneen towards Polokwane when the accident happened.

The total number of fatalities on Limpopo's roads, up until late yesterday, stood at 29 compared to last year's 38.

Of the 29, six were pedestrians, 15 passengers, one driver and one cyclist.

In another accident, five people, including a toddler, were killed and 11 injured in a head-on collision involving a taxi and a private car near Belfast in Mpumalanga.

The little girl, aged about two years, was travelling with her grandmother in the taxi from Nelspruit to Pretoria on the Witbank highway when the rear tyre burst on Sunday morning, said the police.

Captain Klaas Maloka of the Mpumalanga police said the accident occurred at about 10am and the injured were taken to the Belfast and Middelburg provincial hospitals for treatment.