By Leonard Ncube
A National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) passenger train derailed between Hwange and Victoria Falls on Sunday night as a result of broken rail caused by excessive temperatures.
Hundreds of rail passengers were stranded on Sunday and yesterday and completed their journeys by road.
Some spent the night at the Hwange train station while those who travelled from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls on Sunday night got stranded in Hwange as the railway line was still blocked.
They ended up hitch hiking.
The Beitbridge-Bulawayo Railway and Africa Bush Tracks which carry tourists between Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park and as far as South Africa and Zambia were also affected.
NRZ spokesperson Mr Nyasha Maravanyika confirmed the accident but said no passengers were injured.
He said three coaches derailed near T-Junction between Hwange and Victoria Falls due to a broken rail also technically called a kickout where a rail expands during the day due to heat and contracts when temperatures fall at night.
In the process the rail becomes weaker and can break when a train passes, Mr Maravanyika said.
“There was derailment between T-Junction and Victoria Falls due to a broken rail where rail expands and contracts because of heat. This sometimes results in bent or broken rail and is the main cause of derailment. The passenger train from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo didn’t continue on Sunday and up to now even the BBR cargo will be affected until this is sorted,” he said.
Data from the Meteorological Services Department showed that on Sunday, Hwange and Victoria Falls recorded 38 and 39 degrees Celsius maximum temperatures respectively, with the highest for the month of November being 39.7 degrees Celsius and 40.1 degrees Celsius respectively.
Mr Maravanyika said train services are expected to resume tomorrow when the rail could have been cleared.
A Chronicle news crew observed scores of people hitch hiking in Hwange yesterday morning as they proceeded with their journeys to Bulawayo or Victoria Falls.
“Two coaches have been re-railed and workmen are busy fixing rail. Our teams are working hard and we may have the railway line working again on Wednesday or Thursday,” Mr Maravanyika said. The Chronicle