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Zimbabwe Declares National Disaster As 35 Die In Train-Bus Collision

Zimbabwean authorities pointed to driver error, out-of-order railway signals and poor visibility as factors in a collision between an overcrowded commuter bus and a freight train early Tuesday that claimed the lives of 35 aboard the bus including its driver.

The National Railways of Zimbabwe came under fire for failing to repair a signal at the level crossing in the Harare suburb of Dzivarasekwa, and the Harare city government was also criticized for failing to cut back high grass that obscured train traffic.

Police said the freight train, heading into the capital, slammed into the commuter bus carrying 59 passengers, well over its nominal capacity of 32, around 5:30 a.m. The driver reportedly did not stop before entering the level crossing, reports said.

Some survivors were reported in critical condition and receiving treatment at Parirenyatwa Hospital, one of Harare's leading public hospitals.

Reporter Ben Chaleka of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe was at the scene of the crash and at Parirenyatwa Hospital and briefed Studio 7 host Ndimyake Mwakalyelye.

Chief Inspector Andrew Phiri of the Zimbabwe Republic Police told reporter Blessing Zulu that the crossing was a "black spot" where previous accidents had occurred.

Dzivarasekwa Member of Parliament Edwin Mushoriwa said Tuesday's tragedy could have been avoided had local authorities and the National Railways properly maintained crossing signals and the approaches to that crossing.

Mushoriwa said the grass by the crossing had grown so high that drivers cannot see a train coming. He charged that the National Railways had not repaired broken signals.

Mushoriwa told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the government has declared the accident at Dzivaresekwa a national disaster.

For more stories from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...