9 January 2014

Mozambique: Derailment Closes Limpopo Line to Traffic

Maputo — The Limpopo railway line, between Maputo and Zimbabwe, is closed to traffic because of a derailment that occurred last Sunday morning.

The accident occurred in the Niza region, 272 kilometres north of Maputo, between Chokwe and Mabalane in Gaza province. It involved a train carrying 26 wagonloads of sugar from Zimbabwe to be exported from the port of Maputo. 20 of the wagons derailed, and 12 of them overturned, spilling a considerable part of their cargo.

The port and rail company, CFM, has set up a commission of inquiry to establish the causes of the accident. An anonymous CFM source, cited in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, said he believed the train had been travelling too fast, violating the speed restrictions on that part of the line.

The area of the derailment is known for its unstable soil, which should lead train drivers to take great care, particularly in the rainy season. The Niza area is one of the stretches of the Limpopo line that was severely damaged in the torrential rains of January and February last year. Ballast was washed away, and the waters swept rails and sweepers dozens of metres from their correct position.

CFM has sent brigades to Niza to repair the line and rescue the fallen wagons and their cargo. The company promises to restore normal traffic along the line as soon as possible, but has not set a date.

The Limpopo line is 522 kilometres long and is a key route to the sea for southern Zimbabwe.

It has a theoretical capacity to handle two million tonnes of cargo a year. The maximum speed for trains using the line is 50 kilometres an hour.

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