Snow ravages South Africa

Some areas in South Africa were declared disaster zones today after heavy rain and snow caused power failures, destroyed homes and trapped commuters, killing at least 22 people.

Some areas in South Africa were declared disaster zones today after heavy rain and snow caused power failures, destroyed homes and trapped commuters, killing at least 22 people.

‘‘Everybody’s on high alert and ready,’’ said John Fobian, the police rescue coordinator. ‘‘It’s very devastating.’’

Most deaths were from hypothermia and drownings and more than 3,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces, the hardest hit regions.

Emergency workers discovered the body of a man who died of exposure after his shack collapsed in Cala, about 620 miles southeast of Johannesburg.

More bodies were likely trapped beneath three feet of snow in some areas, Fobian said.

Workers were deployed to issue blankets, food and candles and establish medical centres in northern areas of the Eastern Cape.

While conditions improved today, rescue workers were braced for another cold front expected to hit the region on Thursday.

The weather also caught hikers and tourists off guard in the Drakensberg mountain range southeast of Johannesburg.

More tourists trapped in a resort there were airlifted to a nearby town by the army today.

‘‘If we hadn’t evacuated them they would have been stranded for another five days, and they were running out of food and more importantly sources of heat,’’ said Steve Cooke, a civilian who helped with rescue efforts.

Elsewhere in the same mountain range, rescuers said 16 students evacuated from a snowed-in campsite were in good condition Monday.

Eastern South Africa has been battered by a week of cold weather.

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