TWENTY-TWO passengers were injured on Saturday night when a Harare-bound National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) passenger train derailed at Heany Junction, about 30 kilometres east of Bulawayo.
NRZ acting general manager retired Brigadier-General Levy Mayihlome confirmed the accident yesterday and said they were still investigating the cause.
“Yes, the passenger train derailed at 9.55pm last night (Saturday) and investigations are going on to establish the cause of the accident. The antiquated infrastructure might have contributed to the derailment but we are still investigating,” said Mayihlome.
The passenger train was carrying 120 people and 22 that were injured were taken to the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) where 21 were treated and discharged while one remained detained as his condition was said to be critical.
“NRZ sent one of its doctors to UBH, (but) unfortunately the hospital has no medicine and we had to buy drugs from the pharmacy for the injured passenger.
“We hired buses from the Zimbabwe United Passengers’ Company to take some passengers to Harare and other places. NRZ personnel are repairing the line and it should be functional later today (yesterday),” Mayihlome said.
NRZ board chairperson Alvord Mabhena said most of the railway infrastructure was now obsolete.
“Summer season is around and the tracks will be expanding due to heat and it is going to be difficult for the parastatal. Some of the infrastructure can’t be repaired anymore. If it was my private business, l was going to close the passenger trains because it’s not safe for people to travel by it,” Mabhena said.
An eyewitness, Patience Ncube, said eight coaches landed on their sides following the derailment.
“I saw people coming out through the windows, including one pregnant woman, who almost delivered as a result of the accident. She was rushed to hospital by one of the five ambulances which arrived to take the injured passengers to hospital,” Ncube said.
The accident comes barely two weeks after members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development heard that the 470km rail track between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls was no longer safe and needed a complete overhaul to the tune of $50 million because of vandalism.
The committee was on a familiarisation tour of the NRZ’s Bulawayo facilities when they came face-to-face with the mounting problems at the rail company.