HAMNET Report 11th February 2024

Hamnet around the country in general, and the Western Cape in particular have been concerned with the major storm that hit the little Karoo a week ago, resulting in major disruptions in electricity to lots of towns, which in turn resulted in inability to pump water to the affected areas, and manage sewage disposal there.

The Western Cape Provincial Administration’s disaster management processes were swiftly activated, and HAMNET members from both sides of the country surrounding the Klein Karoo watched and attended virtual meetings held by the senior disaster managers of the areas.

The ZS4 members from the Vaal triangle monitored radio activity radiating towards them, while Western Cape HAMNET members attended all the disaster meetings held while the large area of the Karoo suffered without any amenities.

Water was trucked in, and large sized generators were swiftly installed in the Laingsburg, Matjiesfontein and Prince Albert areas to supply electricity, as well as keep cell-phone towers operational. Smaller generators were installed in central business areas.

The power outage affected large parts of the interior of the Western Cape when Eskom suffered multiple powerline failures due to the thunderstorms.

Eskom confirmed that 7 powerline towers collapsed over last weekend, and ground crews were currently assessing the damage. In the Central Karoo, Leeugamka, Roggeveld, Merweville, Laingsburg, Matjiesfontein, and Prince Albert were affected. In the Northern Cape, Sutherland and Fraserburg were affected, while in the Garden Route District, the town of Ladismith was affected. In the Overberg District, Napier, and a substantial portion of the surrounding rural farming community, including the area between Wolwengat and Pearly Beach, was also affected.

Expecting no communications between areas around Beaufort West and surrounds, Michael ZS1MJT put out a call for volunteers to run the Western Cape’s two local emergency stations, ZS1DZ at Tygerberg’s Provinicial Emergency Management Centre, and ZS1DCC, the station at the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre in Goodwood.

Humanitarian aid was brought in to the affected areas by volunteer organizations and, by Tuesday, matters were starting to improve. ZS1MJT asked all HAMNET members who could, to monitor 3,760MHz LSB, 5,410MHz USB, 7,110MHz LSB, 10,135MHz USB and 14,300MHz USB, for signs of systems breaking down further.

Obviously, the provision of drinking water, and then of functional sewage management were the two main concerns requiring possible assistance. Thank you to Michael for supplying these details and for his concern.

Grant ZS6GS, our National HAMNET Director, reported the incident to the IARU Region One Emcor authorities.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management Centre is planning a blackout exercise on 1st March this year, with a view to testing its own internal systems and effectiveness. HAMNET will be involved to test communications between the disaster centres, so the two stations ZS1DZ and ZS1DCC will again be activated.

Aerotime.aero reports that an SAS Scandinavian Airlines Airbus A320 was intercepted and escorted to Manchester Airport following the loss of radio communications between the aircraft and air traffic controllers. The aircraft was en route from Oslo to Manchester at the time of the incident. 

On the morning of February 5, 2024, the Airbus A320 took off from Oslo Airport at 11:19 local time for the two-hour 15-minute flight to Manchester in the north of England. However, as the aircraft crossed the east coast of England and descended towards Manchester, it lost contact with air traffic controllers, and a pair of Typhoons from the RAF QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) force was scrambled to intercept the aircraft. 

Once a rendezvous was made between the three aircraft, communications were re-established by flight SK4609 and the plane eventually landed at Manchester Airport at 12:40 local time, 30 minutes after its scheduled time of arrival. As is standard practice in such circumstances, the SAS plane was escorted by the Typhoons all the way down the approach until it was safely on the ground at Manchester Airport. An airport spokesman explained that it is common practice to escort planes that have lost communications to their final destinations. 

“We understand there to have been a technical fault and comms have now been restored. The flight was destined for Manchester so passengers haven’t been displaced but we have put on extra staff to provide support to any passengers that may need it,” said a spokesperson. 

The RAF QRA force equipped with their supersonic Typhoon crews remains on 24/7 constant standby to respond within minutes to any aircraft experiencing difficulties or to rogue aircraft in or near UK airspace.

3183 cyclists took part yesterday in the second biggest cycle race in the Western Cape, the Gryphon 99er, out of Durbanville northwards to Malmesbury and back to Philadelphia via the old Malmesbury Road. Unlike last year when the weather was so hot and the heat index so high, that the race was stopped more than an hour before the official cut-off time for fear of serious medical complications amongst riders, Saturday dawned cool, with a medium southwester blowing. Skies were clear as the first riders set off at 6am, monitored by a team of ambulances cruising with them, and HAMNET roving marshals stationed strategically along the way.

We had a total of 11 operators grouped in 8 roving vehicles, and another 6 in 3 sets of two, before and after risky areas, with narrow bridges or dangerous corners, warning traffic police to stop advancing cars as the riders swarmed through the danger spots. The JOC was manned by 4 operators, monitoring APRS beacons in three different types of software, as well as choreographing the routes our rovers took, and fielding news of injuries or riders wishing to give up and be picked up by sweep vehicles.

The medical despatch was manned by a Mediclinic doctor, an ambulance service and its despatch officer, the sweep vehicle coordinator, members of the provincial traffic departments of the area, and a safety officer.

The race reached its natural conclusion without major mishap, in spite of a headwind the riders from Malmesbury to Philadelphia struggled against, and the cut-off at 12h30 was achieved

There were two shorter races; one of 57km on tar, and a 60km trip on tar, on gravel and on bike tracks through farmlands. They set off later of course, and finished in amongst the long race riders.

I’d like to thank all our volunteers, too numerous to mention individually, for joining us, having fun, and most importantly helping to make the race a safer one for the 3000 odd riders.

This is a very sleepy Dave Reece ZS1DFR, not having recovered from the lack of sleep yet, as I report for HAMNET in South Africa.