17 April 2009

Zimbabwe: Crash Declared National Disaster

Harare — GOVERNMENT has declared the Mhunga bus crash, whose death toll has now risen to 30, a national disaster and will provide funeral assistance to families of the victims.

Twenty-seven passengers, including the driver and conductor perished on the scene while three were pronounced dead on admission at Chivhu District Hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

Forty-six others were seriously injured when a Harare-bound Mhunga bus burst its front left tyre and plunged into the Munyati River about 20km outside Chivhu, along the Harare-Masvingo Road.

Speaking to journalists at the scene of the accident yesterday, Transport, Communication and Infrastructure Development Minister Nicholas Goche who was being accompanied by his Deputy Tichaona Mudzingwa said the State would provide coffins, blankets and food to help the victims' families bury their loved ones.

"We are deeply saddened by this accident which claimed the lives of 29 people (now 30). It's sad especially if you think about the families that depended on them," Minister Goche said.

He said it was particularly disheartening that the accident occurred when the country had just experienced a bloody Easter Holiday.

"Let me at this point send my most profound condolences to those who lost their loved ones in this most appalling accident and wish all those injured a very speedy recovery," he said.

In a statement last night, Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo said the families would be given a standard coffin for each victim, a blanket, 50kg maize meal and cash.

Minister Chombo also conveyed his condolences to the families of the 30 victims. Minister Goche appealed to all drivers of passenger carrying vehicles and heavy vehicles to exercise extra caution on the roads. "I repeat my appeal to all drivers to have respect for human life. Drive with care and observe all regulations pertaining to road use," he said.

Chivhu assistant district administrator Ms Monica Mutsimba briefed the minister about the accident at the scene. She said the bodies were still at Chivhu District Hospital mortuary but the morgue was overstretched.

"The morgue is too small it has a carrying capacity of 12. Some bodies are lying on the floor," she said.

Police spokesperson, Superintendant Andrew Phiri yesterday said four bodies had been identified. Of the 30 dead, 14 were women, 11 were men while five were juveniles. Those identified are Tecla Majuta (34) of Masvingo, Alice Mambohaatumwe (45) of Harare, Agnes Shomani (82) and Gerald Magorimbo (45) of Harare.

He said the 46 injured have since been transferred to Harare. A police post was still open at Chivhu District Hospital to assist relatives of the deceased.

Yesterday police, Vehicle Inspection Department officials and other Government officials were still retrieving belongings of the victims from the wreckage.

Tyre marks at the scene suggest that the bus travelled by the roadside for about 100 metres as it approached the river and nose-dived into a pool by the side of the bridge.

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