South Africa train crash: ‘Bodies burnt beyond recognition’

A passenger train has caught fire in South Africa after colliding with a truck, killing at least 14 people and injuring 268, rescue workers say.

Some of the bodies are “burnt beyond recognition”, Free State Health Department spokesman Mondli Mvambi told South African news site Times Live.

Video footage showed a fire blazing through at least one carriage, near a crushed car and an overturned truck.

Evacuated passengers were seen standing on the roadside with luggage.

The collision occurred near Kroonstad city in Free State province, after the truck failed to stop at a crossing, a passenger told local media.

About 430 passengers were on board, officials said.

‘They didn’t make it’

The driver of the truck tried to flee, but was arrested by police, passenger Seipati Moletsane told the privately owned eCNA news site.

Passengers in the first two coaches were wounded, she added.

“I was so traumatised. I didn’t know what to do. I was looking for a door just to jump out. Every door was locked… All of a sudden, we just saw smoke, smoke, smoke,” Ms Moletsane said.

The emergency services rushed to the scene and battled the blaze on the train, which had been travelling from the coastal city of Port Elizabeth to the commercial capital, Johannesburg.

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Officials fear the number of dead could rise, reports the BBC’s Lebo Diseko from Johannesburg.

The disaster management chief for the area, Butler Markes Wayne, told the BBC that his team planned to lift the train to see if there were people under it.

Passenger Tiaan Esterhuizen told the BBC that he and his family managed to get off the train, and he then tried to help three women trapped in the mangled wreckage:

“They were shouting to us: ‘Listen, the baby, the baby!’ We tried to look for the baby but we couldn’t find it.

“We broke down the windows to look [for] it. And then… that same truck that they were in… was full of flames. So, they didn’t make it.”

Image copyright @ER24EMS
Image caption Some passengers managed to escape

The flames became intense, forcing him and others to retreat, he said.

“We used some fire extinguishers the police had‚ but it didn’t work‚” Mr Esterhuizen was quoted in local media as saying.

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