By Jite Eriabie
At least 14 people are dead and dozens injured after a passenger train crashed into a lorry and burst into flames in South Africa’s Free State province on Thursday.
Some 429 passengers were onboard and many were forced to jump from carriage windows as the train filled with smoke after the derailment at about 9.15am local time.
Train company Shosholoza Meyl said about 181 people were injured, while a train service official confirmed the death toll had risen to at least 14 people.
Four people were initially confirmed dead, but a few hours after emergency crews arrived, they announced another 10 had died.
The train, which was reportedly packed with holidaymakers, crashed into a truck and car as it travelled from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg, South Africa.
A spokesman for Shosholoza Meyl said, “Train 37012 (PE-Jhb) got derailed at Jeneva Level Crossing between Henneman and Kroonstad.
“The untimely crossing of a truck at the level crossing resulted in the derailment of seven coaches.
“One of them is a power car which helps generating power in the train. The power car caught fire, which crossed over to the next coach.
“There’s an ongoing search of other passengers who might be trapped in the derailed coaches.”
Distressing video shows confused commuters wandering the fields and roads around the crash site as firefighters attempt to extinguish flames bursting out of the carriages.
The South African Emergency Medical Service tweeted that paramedics were at the scene and dealing with at least ‘100 patients’.
Initial reports suggest that more than 100 people have sustained injuries ranging from minor to serious after a passenger train, truck and car collided between Hennenman and Kroonstad in the Free State. Traffic in the area is severely affected.
Tiaan Esterhuizen‚ a passenger on the train‚ said he was told the train was ‘blowing its horn for a long time’ before the accident.
“We were in the restaurant section of the train eating breakfast when we felt a jerk and soon after the train came to a standstill‚” he was quoted as saying by local media.
“Some of the people told me afterward they heard the train blowing its horn for a long time before the accident happened.”