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Two Botswana Railways (BR) crew members died early yesterday morning when an express train derailed between Pallaroad and Mahalapye near Bonwapitse River. About 400 passengers were safely evacuated.
Briefing the media at the accident scene later in the day, Minister of Transport and Communications Mr Thulagano Segokgo said facts would be availed once necessary investigations had been carried out.
He appealed to the media to be sensitive in their reporting and afford officials time to carry out investigations which would inform remedial actions to be taken as well as steps and lessons learnt to avoid similar incidents.
Minister Segokgo, who travelled to the scene soon after he was briefed about the derailment of the 501 north-bound passenger train, said it was en route to Francistown from Gaborone when it derailed.
On board, he said, were 380 passengers, including the driver, two trainmen in the locomotive, and a rail inspector. who had Mr Segokgo said there were two fatalities, the locomotive driver and rail inspector, who had boarded the train at Pallaroad only minutes before.
"Quite regrettably, we've lost two lives. The other two, who were trainmen in the locomotive, sustained injuries and have been taken to the hospital in Mahalapye. They may be transferred to hospitals in Gaborone, so that they can get the sort of medical attention that they need.
We deeply regret this and I will be taking time to visit them at the hospital, if they are still there, this morning," he said.
He confirmed that although some passengers had sustained bruises, they were properly evacuated and taken to a nearby school in Pallaroad and transport availed for them to continue with their journeys.
For his part, BR chief executive officer, Mr Leonard Makwinja said the deceased's next of kin had been informed and condolences expressed to the two families.
"Our prayers are with the families and we will be checking on the people that were injured to see how they are doing," he said.
Currently, Mr Makwinja said BR had stalled all train movements, pending investigations and the rehabilitation of the railway line.
BR board chairperson, Mr Adolf Hirschfeld stressed the sensitivity of the issue and appealed to members of the media not to exacerbate matters by being insensitive.
Commenting, Transport and General Workers Union president, Ms Gaebepe Molaodi thanked the minister and BR leadership for responding promptly to the incident.
She stressed that appropriate action should be taken after investigations.
After the press conference, Minister Segokgo and his entourage headed for Mahalapye Hospital to check on the two injured trainmen.
Meanwhile, the other passenger train that was en route from to Gaborone from Francistown was stopped at Serule and passengers assisted to proceed to their destinations.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>