Vol. 5 Num 70 Thu. August 05, 2004  
Front Page

70 hurt in Zimbabwe train crash

Two commuter trains have crashed in morning rush hour at the Zimbabwean capital Harare's main station, injuring 70 people including 10 seriously, government officials say.

Deputy Transport Minister Andrew Langa said yesterday it appeared human error was to blame for the accident. There were no immediate reports of any deaths.

A Reuters witness saw at least four carriages lying on their side at Harare Station.

"Two commuter trains using the same track as they approached the railway station collided into each other," Langa told Reuters at the scene shortly after the collision.

"The one which was behind did not slow down for the one in front. At this stage we are attributing this to human error," Langa said. "At the moment we have no reports of deaths."

A man at the scene told Reuters: "I saw one of the trains crash into the other. People were wailing."

The crash stirred memories of Zimbabwe's last major rail disaster in February 2003, when more than 40 people were killed and over 60 injured when a passenger train on its way to the northwestern resort town of Victoria Falls collided with a goods train and caught fire, burning some bodies beyond recognition.

Officials also blamed human error for that accident.

Police cordoned off the site of Wednesday's crash to allow ambulances to ferry the injured to three hospitals in the city.

Hospital sources said many of those hurt suffered head injuries or broken limbs.

One of the three seriously injured had internal bleeding and needed major surgery, and another was hurt while jumping from one of the trains when the collision happened, the sources said.

"We are going to investigate the accident and we will punish the culprits," Transport and Communications Minister Chris Mushowe told reporters when he visited the crash scene with several other government ministers.

Railway workers started to clear the crash site, bringing in heavy lifting equipment to help move the carriages.

Rail has become an increasingly important mode of transport for workers from Harare's high-density townships to reach jobs in central Harare, especially as Zimbabwe's foreign exchange crisis has forced up the price of fuel for minibuses.