AT least 53 people died yesterday in a road traffic accident on Great North road involving a bus and a truck.
The road horror involved a Zambia Postal Service bus which collided with a truck between 07:00 hours and 07:30 hours.
The accident happened when the 70-seater bus, registration number ABV 4020 which was coming from the Copperbelt, collided head-on with a foreign truck, registration number 1793AB 05, believed to be from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Among the dead was the truck driver and his co-driver in the accident which happened around John Chinena's area in Chibombo District.
A Times crew that rushed to the scene found scores of security personnel from the Zambia Police, Zambia Army and Fire Brigade struggling to remove bodies from both the mangled bus and the truck as several people watched helplessly.
Deputy Minister in the Office of the Vice-President, Harry Kalaba also rushed to the scene of the accident where scores of onlookers watched in shock as the rescue operation was being conducted.
The body of the bus driver trapped in his seat was only retrieved around 10:00 hours while the truck driver and his co-worker's bodies which were also trapped in their vehicle were removed around 12:25 hours.
Security personnel had a tough time in picking up the pieces of flesh, shoes and other belongings from the bus.
The accident scene was characterised by a solemn mood as several on-lookers openly wept while others collapsed upon seeing the scattered bodies.
The accident caused congestion with more than 200 motor vehicles blocked from both sides covering a distance of over 200 metres.
Security officers had a tough time controling onlookers, mostly passengers on other public buses and truck drivers while others abandoned their vehicles to have a glimpse of both the dead and injured.
Scores of people flocked to Kabwe general hospital mortuary to identify their relatives.
And some onlookers condemned the picking up of the driver of a Toyota Hilux, saying he was also a victim of the reckless driving of the truck driver and was not at fault.
Central Province deputy commissioner of police, Andrew Mbewe and Chibombo District Commissioner Felix Mangwato were also at the scene of the accident.
The duo said the accident happened when the foreign truck hit into the Toyota Hilux which was driven by another foreigner before colliding with the bus which was behind the Hilux.
Chibombo District medical officer Priscilla Chisha said as at 11:00 hours yesterday, Liteta Hospital mortuary had 14 bodies while 33 were taken to Kabwe General Hospital mortuary.
Dr Chisha said 10 females, 12 males and a baby were admitted to Liteta Hospital while five others were referred to Lusaka's University Teaching Hospital and Kabwe General Hospital for specialist treatment.
He described the condition of those evacuated to Lusaka and Kabwe as critical.
One of the survivors, Osward Chila narrated that he was seated at the back of the bus and was shocked to find himself on top of bodies and later collapsed.
Central Province Minister Philip Kosamu, who also rushed to the scene described the accident as a national disaster.
He ordered the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit to bring blankets at the scene which were used to cover the dead.
Zambia Postal Service operations director Alex Mayeya who was found at the scene was equally saddened by the loss of lives in the accident.
He said the institution would issue a comprehensive report once it compiled names in its books.
He, however, said preliminary reports showed that 65 passengers had boarded the bus in Ndola enroute to Lusaka but that it was possible to have more passengers because the bus had a capacity for 70.
Meanwhile, Chief Government spokesperson Kennedy Sakeni has sent a message of condolences to the bereaved families on the tragic and untimely loss of lives.