AS some prepared to play-act horror scenes during Halloween, a yearly celebration observed in Western societies on October 31 to remember the dead, among them saints (hallows), martyrs, and departed believers; the Muyambo family of Chisumbanje, their relatives and the community experienced real horror when 24 mourners perished in an inferno on Wednesday morning.
Tragedy struck when a Mazda T35 truck ferrying mourners collided head-on with a Green Fuel tanker that was laden with 45 000 litres of ethanol which ignited after the impact.
Only four people survived the horrific accident, one of them 25-year-old Evidence Mlambo.
"I am lucky to be alive," Evidence quipped whenever a relative, friend or concerned citizen visited her bedside.
Her 13-month-old daughter, Angel, also survived the inferno that burnt most of her family members beyond recognition.
The accident, which occurred near Checheche Growth Point at the 206km peg along the Tanganda-Chiredzi Highway, shook the country.
Both Evidence and Angel were admitted at Chipinge General Hospital and were expected to be discharged yesterday.
She has recovered and pleaded with authorities to release and allow her to attend her husband (Shudnot) and elder daughter's burials in Chiweshe.
Speaking to The Herald from her hospital bed, Evidence could not hide the physical and emotional pain she was in.
She often broke down as she saw cars carrying coffins driving towards the mortuary, a few blocks from the female wards.
She occasionally peeped through the window, expecting to see a loved one she was with in the lorry on the fateful day walk by, hoping that she was just having a bad dream.
But the nightmare endures as each white coffin she saw being delivered to the mortuary by the District Administrator, Mr Edgars Seenza, brought the nightmare to life.
Her loved ones are gone.
She thanks God for her life and that of her child.
Evidence is trying to accept that all that happened, occurred for a reason.
"I am alive because God saved me so that I would tell the story of the 24 who perished in the accident.
"If the people who saved me did not come, I could have been dead," said Evidence, a member of the Johane Masowe WeChishanu Apostolic Church in Mazowe.
As she was talking, a First Mutual hearse carrying two coffins drove towards the mortuary, drawing her attention.
She said as she paused for a second time to look through the window: "How do I live when they are all gone? Are those their coffins?" she asked.
The questions flowed as she sobbed, her 13-month old baby angel sleeping on the bed.
She said she boarded the lorry carrying the coffin in Zengeza 4, Chitungwiza.
She does not remember the number of people who boarded the truck, but estimates they were over 20.
They left at 10pm and arrived at Manzviva, the black spot, at around 6am.
"I did not see how the car collided with the haulage truck since I was seated facing where we were coming from.
"I remember suddenly finding myself on the ground, my legs numb and Angel besides me.
"I heard some villagers saying 'take that woman and her baby, they are alive' later carrying both the two of us to houses some metres away.
"My niece Beulah was still alive and was lying beside me and she was also carried to safety.
"We were both ferried to St Peter's Hospital and later transferred here. But I later heard Beulah did not make it to the hospital," she said choking on her grief as tears streamed down her cheeks.
Evidence had been assisting other people who were looking for their loved ones by trying to remember the type and colour of clothes they were wearing when they boarded the truck in Chitungwiza.
The information she provided helped some identify their loved ones.
She said she was unemployed and does not know how she will fend for Angel since her husband who was the breadwinner is dead.
"I am seeking assistance or even money to start a project so that I can fend for my child," she said.
As she sat by her hospital bed, groups of relatives of those who did not make it gathered outside the hospital mortuary taking turns to get inside and try to identify the charred bodies.
But it was a task too difficult for many as they had to look for distinct features like gaps on teeth and feet (if they were not burnt) to try and identify them.
This was not a task for the faint-hearted.
The scene inside the mortuary was heart-rending, to say the least.
A "carpet" of burnt bodies, some with intestines protruding from the belly could be seen.
Some had blood oozing from the burnt skin, some lay facing downwards others up and yet others sideways.
Their scorched skin that exposed raw flesh was a common feature.
The scene would only be found in horror movies.
But, relatives, even women seemed to see through this horrific scene as they sifted beyond the burnt bodies hoping to find even a foot that would help them find their loved ones.
Aleck Tenenga, who lost both his sisters Viola and Venencia, said it was difficult to identify their bodies and had to turn to distinct features.
"Usually when people identify bodies of dead relatives, they do so by their faces or through marks on the skin.
"We could not do this since they were burnt beyond recognition and had to depend on other things.
"Venencia's strongest feature were her teeth, which looked like they wanted to protrude from her mouth. So even when she died, the teeth remained the same," he said.
Venencia was the wife of the late Clifford, who died of cancer and his body was being ferried to his rural home in Mariya area when disaster struck.
Viola was Venencia's sister.
"We were shocked and devastated when we heard the news. It was difficult to accept, I did not think we would experience anything like this," he said.
While others like Tenenga were relieved to identify their relatives, others like Mrs Sophia Magwenzi of Chitungwiza were not so lucky.
She could not identify the body of her nephew Kudzai Magezi (28) who was driving the truck carrying the mourners.
Person after person tried their luck, but came out of the mortuary shaking their heads, their hopes shattered.
It was the end of the road for both their relative and their search.
"We have been trying to identify the body for two days now but have not found any leads. We now wait to hear what the Government says," Mrs Magwenzi said.
She said she did not think that she would not see her nephew ever again when he left with the mourners.
"We are deeply hurt, and put everything in God's hands," she added.
Kudzai's uncle Kenneth Magezi said in the event his nephew was not identified, they would consult village elders on the way forward once the Government tells them their position.
Other people who could not identify their relatives could be heard contemplating seeking the services of sangomas and faith healers.
At the Muyambo homestead in Chisumbanje, family members gathered as they tried to absorb the news, counting the number of those who had died, forgetting some and being reminded and so forth.
Others sat quietly in deep thought, some wailed loudly, others sobbed while others cried silently.
It was a sad moment for the family which was robbed of 12 relatives.
Chipinge District Administrator, Mr Seenza said eight bodies had been positively identified.
According to a police report released on Thursday, the Mazda T35 truck encroached into the lane of the tanker after the driver dozed behind the wheel.
The driver of the tanker tried to avoid a head-on collision by swerving to the right. In the process, the police said the truck driver swerved in the same direction resulting in a collision and as a result of the impact, the truck did a 180 degree turn to face the direction it was coming from, about five metres away from the tanker.
Villagers rushed to the scene and as they were trying to rescue the victims, the tanker exploded, burning the passengers who were already injured and could not quickly flee for dear life.