Dozen dead, scores injured in South Africa train crash

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A wreckage is seen after a train crash near Hennenman in the Free State province, South Africa, January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – More than a dozen people were killed and hundreds were feared injured after a train struck a lorry, derailed and burst into flames in South Africa on Thursday.

Footage from television news showed fire engulfing one of the train’s carriages after the accident, which occurred as it travelled between Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.

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Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said the train, which was carrying 700 passengers, jumped the tracks after hitting the truck, which was attempting to negotiate a level crossing.

He said preliminary investigations suggested 12 people had died in the crash and 268 were injured, including four critically.

Emergency services said 14 people had died, and dozens were hurt, calling the minister’s injury estimate premature.

“I have been briefed that the accident was the result of a truck that was driving through a level crossing… You can see for yourself the truck driver was taking chances,” Maswanganyi said on the news channel of national broadcaster SABC.

He said the driver had survived and police were investigating.

Emergency services and rail officials were not immediately able to confirm the circumstances of the crash.

South Africa has the continent’s largest railway network, but it has been plagued by mismanagement and under-investment that has seen train use dwindle despite it being the cheapest from of public transportation.

In a recent report, the government’s Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) said that, in the 2016/17 financial year, 495 people lost their lives in the country’s railway environment and 2,079 were injured.

The death toll was up 5 percent increase from the previous year.

Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; editing by John Stonestreet

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