Johannesburg - Nineteen people have been confirmed dead in the horror Free State train crash but the death toll could rise even further after officials on Monday revealed that as many as 15 more people are still unaccounted for.
Daisy Daniels, spokesperson for the Shosholoza Meyl passenger train, said 15 people were still missing or unaccounted for following last Thursday’s accident near Kroonstad.
Daniels was speaking at a walk-in and call centre at the Prasa headquarters, Umjantshi House, next to Park Station, Braamfontein. The facility was established by the Department of Transport and Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to assist all those affected by the horror crash in which the train derailed after it crashed into a truck at a rail crossing.
Prasa spokesperson Sipho Sithole said: “We have to deal with the deceased first because we don't know who the 19 are because of the state they are in, but we still have to find out through the DNA.”
Sithole said family members will be taken to Kroonstad for the identification process. Health authorities have said they will be ready to begin the identification process on Tuesday.
The walk-in centre will help the injured with their claims. It will also provide information about the deceased and how Prasa will help families identify the bodies.
“We are still processing who are affected and how are they affected, we can't say much about paying hospital bills and funerals,” said Sithole.
Among those who were injured was 30-year-old Calvin Baloyi, who said things were no longer the same since the day of the accident. “I really don't know what is happening with my mind anymore, I'm still shocked and I can't concentrate anymore like I used to before the accident. I have lost my mind.”
Baloyi said he was travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg when the accident occurred.
“I don't have focus, I can't concentrate anymore, I am traumatised by what happened.”
He said he can still hear the frightening sounds of passengers screaming and metal clanging. Some people were trapped under the carriages when the train derailed and rolled over. Baloyi injured his left arm, shoulder and foot. He said Prasa has promised to help him pay for his hospital bills.
Another passenger who was lucky to escape the horror crash was 29-year-old Nozipho Hoza who recounted her ordeal, saying: "We thought the train was trying to stop because we felt some halting, but the train was crashing. I heard people screaming from the back, up to my carriage which was in front," said Hoza.
"That's because the train was crashing. I quickly tried picking up my child, but the movement of the train threw me across the carriage and against the window.
"When I awoke from there I managed to pick myself up and my child whom I gave to my brother. My brother then managed to escape outside with my child and I followed them. That is how we all escaped."
The walk-in centre will be operational 24 hours a day.
African News Agency/ANA