Sandstorm leaves motorists, officials in a spin in Villiersdorp, Western Cape
A sandstorm swept through the small town of Villiersdorp in the Western Cape on Sunday afternoon, 9 June 2019, causing several motorists to be stranded. One moment businessman Khell van der Lith was off to the shops to pick up a few bits and bobs for his wife and the next he was on his way to rescue people stuck in the blinding sandstorm. As an active member of the local neighbourhood watch and a participant in various WhatsApp group chats, van der Lith said he heard about motorists in distress in a sandstorm at a bridge near Vyeboom on Sunday. He heard that a taxi was also stuck in the sand in the middle of the road on the R321 road between Villiersdorp and Grabouw. "I told my wife I was going to help," he said.
In the video, a man in a reflective yellow jacket and a police officer can be seen battling to stay on their feet while in the middle of the road. The man uses his jacket to shield his face and twirls before deciding it is not safe and runs out of the screenshot.
The motorist filming the scene starts hooting at the officer. The officer then uses his elbow to protect his face and presumably walks to a more sheltered spot.
Once the wind dies down a bit, the sand-covered road resembles a desert.
Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa said the men had been trying to warn motorists about the storm and the road was closed.
"That's me in the yellow jacket," Van der Lith laughed, referring to the person in the video. Having worked in the towing industry for 12 years, he already had his trusty tow ropes in the back of his bakkie when he set off to help. "My bakkie was thrown all over the road," he says of the journey there.
Once there, he towed five vehicles out of the sand while traffic officials, other volunteers and the police assisted and kept the road safe by warning oncoming motorists. "I felt like the sand was going to take off my skin," Van der Lith said.
One of the truck drivers managed to get out on his own after using extreme high speed to move from the sand to spots of open patches on the road where his tyres could get a grip for him to keep advancing.
Van der Lith said the nearby Theewaterskloof Dam has not recovered from the prolonged drought, so sand is constantly blown onto the road.
After Sunday's heroism, Van der Lith went back to Villiersdorp to complete his shopping errand. "I forgot the Omo though, so I had to go back for that," he laughed.