Mababane - Witnesses searched in the dark for body parts with their cellphone lights after 10 people died in Swaziland’s worst multi-vehicle accident, on Tuesday night during rush hour. On Wednesday dozens of people remained in critical condition.
A truck carrying coal to South Africa crashed into two lanes of commuter traffic east of Mbabane.
“This is a national tragedy,” said Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini on Wednesday.
The prime minister promised that an official investigation into the accident would be held. Such probes into road accidents are almost unknown in the country.
A truck bearing iron ore for the Solgaocar mining company overturned along the median strip at the base of a highway after crashing at high speed into stalled rush-hour traffic.
Police are investigating whether the driver was caught by surprise while encountering the traffic jam or whether the truck suffered mechanical failure.
Travelling between lanes, the truck collided with 23 smaller trucks, cars and minibuses. Some were crushed or overturned, while others burst into flames.
“Bodies were thrown everywhere. Some were headless. Some didn’t have arms or legs. Drivers were trapped in burning cars. There were screams everywhere,” said Thomas Ndwandwe, a passenger in a minibus that was halted near the overturned truck.
Although the accident occurred along a dangerous decline on Malagwane Hill, which is cited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most accident-prone stretch of road in the world, the Solgaocar trucks have been involved in numerous accidents since they began hauling iron ore in 2011. Five Salgaocar trucks overturned in a single day along Malagwane Hill in 2012.
Hindering rescue efforts was the absence of lights.
Ndwandwe said: “Most of the highway is dark because government does not maintain the lights from Mbabane to Manzini. The only light during the Malagwane accident was from flaming cars.
“Police asked us to help them find a woman’s head that was torn from her torso. We looked in the dark with our cellphone lights. Someone found it and put it in a sack.”
Independent Foreign Service