'Stay off the N3' plead authorities after arson attack

Main route between Gauteng and KZN to remain closed indefinitely due to road surface damage

N3 Toll Concession operations manager Thania Dhoogra says though the fire was extinguished the area is being treated as a crime scene. Stock image
N3 Toll Concession operations manager Thania Dhoogra says though the fire was extinguished the area is being treated as a crime scene. Stock image
Image: anyvidstudio/123RF

Motorists and truckers have been asked to delay their plans to travel on the N3 toll route between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal as the road remains closed. 

This is after an arson attack in which six large fully loaded trucks were set on fire at Van Reenen’s Pass late on Saturday night. They were completely burnt out before the blaze was doused in the early hours of Sunday. 

N3 Toll Concession operations manager Thania Dhoogra said though the fire was extinguished, the area was being treated as a crime scene, with police and investigators still busy. 

“The scene is secured and the fire has been put out, but the road remains closed. Cleanup and recovery operations are under way, but there is underlying road damage that must be taken care of before it can be reopened,” Dhoogra said. 

She said authorities were aware of the trucks having been stopped by arsonists who pulled the drivers out before setting the vehicles and their loads on fire. The suspects and the motive were still unknown, but no injuries had been reported and no other cars or vehicles had been damaged. 

Dhoogra said though there were alternative routes that could be used, these were not conducive for heavy vehicles, and appealed to travellers to delay using the popular route until it is reopened.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Brig Jay Naicker confirmed the information. 

“At this stage the motive for the attack is unknown. Van Reenen detectives are investigating a case of malicious damage to property. A large police deployment including the public order policing unit is monitoring the situation,” he said. 

Northbound traffic, heading to Johannesburg, has been stopped at Tugela Plaza, while southbound traffic, heading to Durban, was stacked at the top of Van Reenen's Pass. 

Trucking magazine Fleetwatch is reporting that one trucks had numerous bullet holes in the cab from the attackers shooting at it.

According to Fleetwatch’s report, “This was a well-planned attack on trucks. They planned the ambush, got the trucks to stop by spreading some debris and rocks across the road, shooting at them and then burning them before gapping it. This was not a mass protest by a crowd of people. It was not a service delivery-type protest. This was a ‘hit squad'.” 

Dhoogra was unable to confirm reports of shots having been fired on the scene. She also could not give an estimate on how long the route will remain closed. 

For real-time traffic updates, to report problems or obtain emergency assistance, contact the 24-hour N3 helpline on 0800-63-43-57 or Twitter @N3Route.



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