Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Reporter
President Mnangagwa has sent a message of condolence to families of 42 people who died on a Brooklyn Express bus which caught fire near West Nicholson in Matabeleland South Province on Thursday night.
He wished a quick recovery to 26 others who escaped with various degrees of burns and indicated that Government was moving towards declaring the accident a national disaster.
“On behalf of the party, Zanu-PF, Government, and on my own behalf, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to all the families who have lost their loved ones in this latest road accident,” said President Mnangagwa in a statement.
“In the same spirit, I wish all those injured and burnt in the accident speedy recovery. Government will move to declare this accident a national disaster so resources are availed to all families affected by this accident.”
President Mnangagwa said the accident, which occurred barely a week after another accident involving buses in Rusape which claimed 46 lives, points to growing risks on the country’s roads, requiring urgent and drastic interventions.
“What is heart-rendering about this latest accident is that combustible material was allowed onto the bus, thus causing a conflagration which entrapped, scalded and consumed innocent passengers,” he said.
“What a painful experience and death!”
The President said the West Nicholson accident calls for a relook at traffic laws and traffic enforcement practices to prevent a recurrence of such accidents.
“As before, I urge the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development to use the two accidents which have occurred hard on the heels of each other to take appropriate measures which comprehensively deal with this growing menace on our roads,” he said.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Acting Minister Professor Amon Murwira urged drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles to be vigilant and obey all road traffic laws.
He said passengers should desist from carrying with them explosive materials, which are a danger to other passengers.
“I repeat my appeal, to all drivers of passenger service vehicles to exercise caution when driving on our roads,” said Prof Murwira.
“Have respect for human lives, drive with due care and observe all regulations pertaining road use.”
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo said Government would avail $500 per deceased person to bereaved families.
He said the Insurance Council of Zimbabwe (ICZ) will also provide funeral services, which include mortuary, coffin, hearse to burial location, burial service — all to the tune of $1 350 per deceased.
For the injured, Minister Moyo said, the ICZ will provide medical assistance for a maximum of $1 000 per injured and will also meet costs of DNA testing for positive identification of the deceased.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the driver of a Brooklyn Express Bus Company was driving a Scania Marco Polo bus registration number ADQ2937 from Bulawayo to Beitbridge with approximately 70 passengers on board.
She said the driver sensed a strange smell on the bus and switched on the interior lights.
“It is suspected that there was a gas tank on the bus that caused an explosion and it caught fire,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
“The driver veered off the road to the left side and then stopped. The whole bus was immediately engulfed in fire.”
As a result, 42 passengers were burnt beyond recognition and 26 others were injured.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said remains of the burnt passengers were taken to Gwanda Provincial Hospital mortuary awaiting post-mortem, while the injured were receiving treatment at the same hospital.
She said names of the deceased will be released once the bodies have been identified and their next of kin have been advised.
“Members of the public are urged not to transport flammable materials or explosives when travelling,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
“Meanwhile, police have launched full-scale investigations into this unfortunate incident.”
Passenger Association of Zimbabwe spokesperson Mr Tafadzwa Goliath expressed concern over circumstances surrounding the accident.
He said the incident should serve as a lesson to some drivers of public transport with a tendency of transporting flammable substances like petrol in containers in the same vehicle with passengers.
“Safety should be everyone’s concern, including that of passengers,” said Mr Goliath.
“If you find out that there are combustible or flammable liquids or gas in any public transport, then do not board it.”