664 hurt in Soweto train crash
Poloko Tau and Adam Sege
A train crash in Soweto left 644 passengers injured, with many waiting for hours as dozens of paramedics responded from across the region.
Two men were critically injured and airlifted by helicopter to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, said Jeff Wicks, a Netcare 911 spokesman.
The collision occurred just after 6pm yesterday between Mzimhlophe and Phomolong train stations in Soweto.
Witnesses claimed that train 9432 collided with the back of a stationary Business Express train on the same tracks.
As some people lay motionless and others groaned in pain in the dark between the railway lines, paramedics scrambled to attend to the worst injured.
An attempt to light up the scene failed when a generator failed to work. Paramedics struggled to lift some of the seriously injured patients up a steep slope.
For hours after the accident, people lay, surrounded by concerned relatives, as they waited for their turn to be taken to hospitals. More than 20 ambulances from city emergency services and private ambulances responded.
Mariam Moloi, 44, of Dobsonville, said she heard a bang, then the coach went dark.
“It happened so fast. The next thing, I found myself with a lot of people walking over me after I fell through an open door and landed between the railway lines,” she said.
About two-and-a-half hours after the accident, Seroke sat waiting for help at the side of the tracks. Nearby, rescue workers attended to more seriously injured people.
Close to three hours after the accident, rescue workers were still bringing stretchers to the scene.
Shoes lay scattered inside carriages, evidence of what commuters described as a “near-stampede” as passengers fought to get out of the train.
Nearly four hours after the collision, more than a dozen people lay under thermal blankets on stretchers on the street.
Metrorail chief executive Mosenngwa Mofi was on the scene, and said investigators would determine whether the crash was as a result of human or infrastructural error.
He acknowledged Metrorail’s infrastructure was “aged and prone to errors”.