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Tanker Explosion: Relatives wrangle over charred remains

RELATIVES of 24 people who perished in an ethanol tanker explosion in Chisumbanje were yesterday wrangling over the remains of the victims, stalling the identification process. The remains were at Chipinge District Hospital mortuary.

22 perish in Chisumbanje road accident
22 perish in Chisumbanje road accident

The accident occurred on Wednesday morning near Checheche Growth Point at the 206 km peg along the Tanganda-Chiredzi Highway.

Acting Manicaland Police Traffic Co-ordinator Chief Inspector Cyprian Mukahanana said they did a physical count of the remains yesterday morning and ascertained that 24 people had been killed, and not 22 as earlier reported.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo said the Government would assist the bereaved families with US$200 each.

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Police said by 8pm last night, relatives had only managed to identify 12 of the charred remains, the majority of whom were mourners on their way to bury a relative at Mariya Village, about 20km away from the accident scene.

Relatives wrangled as they counter claimed the same bodies, thereby delaying the identification process in which birthmarks and other peculiar body marks were used. Hospital sources said they did not have equipment to perform DNA tests to determine the genetic make up of the victims.

Spouses of the deceased would use body marks, tattoos, scars and other parts of the body to identify the remains. The tanker — which was carrying 45 000 litres of ethanol — was Harare-bound.

According to a police report released yesterday, the Mazda T35 truck encroached into the lane of the tanker after the driver dozed behind the wheel. The driver of the tanker tried to avoid a head-on collision by swerving to the right.

In the process, the police said the truck driver swerved in the same direction resulting in a collision and as a result of the impact, the truck faced the direction it was coming from, about five metres away from the tanker.

Villagers rushed to the scene and as they were trying to rescue the victims, the tanker exploded, burning the passengers who were already injured and could not quickly move away.

The T35 truck — laden with Muyambo family members — was also carrying a coffin bearing the body of Clifford Muyambo who died on Monday. The body was burnt to ashes. Police said six people were rescued, but two died on their way to Chipinge District Hospital.

Four mourners, among them a child, were admitted and their condition was said to be critical after they sustained head, spinal and internal injuries and fractured ribs and limbs.

Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday said one of the injured person, a woman, was still in a critical condition and had been transferred to Mutare Provincial Hospital from Chipinge District Hospital.

She said the names of those who had been identified so far were still being withheld.

“So far we are still investigating the cause of the accident and accident evaluators are yet to visit the scene to determine the cause,” she said. “But from the way it occurred, it seems there was a side swipe impact which caused the vehicles to overturn.”

Chief Insp Mukahanana said relatives were yesterday assisting them to identify the deceased at Chipinge District Hospital mortuary.

“At the moment we have relatives from Kadoma, Harare and Checheche who are making efforts to identify the deceased,” he said.

He said there were more than 50 relatives who were assisting them to identify by last night. Apart from the mourners, a Green Fuel employee and tyre fitter who was with three others in the gutted truck was among people who died on the spot. The lower part of his body was reduced to ashes. The Herald