By Samuel Kadungure
MUTARE – The tragedy that struck Manicaland last Wednesday morning in which 22 people, most of them family members, were badly burnt following a crash involving a Greenfuel tanker and a Mazda T35 truck carrying mourners near Checheche, has brought to the fore the need for the ethanol-producing concern to invest in fire-fighting equipment since its products are inflammable.
Greenfuel was criticised by villagers for failing to avail fire-fighting equipment which many believed would have minimised the impact of the disaster.
A Greenfuel haulage truck carrying about 45 000 litres of ethanol exploded into flames after a head-on collision with a Mazda T35 truck ferrying a coffin and about 22 mourners in a spine-chilling accident that saw 21 victims being burnt badly, some beyond recognition.
The coffin that was carrying the body of Clifford Muyambo, who died on Monday in Chegutu, was also burnt.
The Greenfuel tanker was on its way to Harare with the inflammable product, while the mourners were headed towards Mariya Village, about 20km from the scene, where they intended to bury Muyambo’s body yesterday (Thursday).
They had travelled all night. The bodies of the accident victims were taken to Chipinge District Hospital mortuary. The accident, described as “horrific” by witnesses, occurred at Manzvire, about 15 kilometres from Checheche Growth Point.
Manicaland police traffic co-ordinator Chief Inspector Cyprin Mukahanana said the accident occurred at around 7am. He said 22 passengers in the T35 truck, including the driver, were burnt to death. He said investigations were still in progress to establish the cause of the crash.
However, preliminary investigations pointed to “driver fatigue”. Apart from the mourners, a Greenfuel employee who was with three others in the gutted tanker was among the 19 who died on the spot.
The lower part of his body was badly burnt and many believed he could have been saved if expert assistance had been rendered. Mr Plan Mtetwa, of Manzvire Village, Checheche, blamed lack of fire-fighting equipment for worsening the magnitude of the tragedy.
“How can a big company like Greenfuel, which deals with highly inflammable petroleum products, operate without such critical equipment? How was it authorised to assume operations without such requisite fire outbreak equipment? Now look what has happened, it is a disaster, and precious lives have been lost where they could possibly have been saved,” said Mr Mtetwa.
“When the fire started, there was an urgent response from the villagers and some of the victims could have been saved. Greenfuel needs a full-fledged fire tender unit in case of such eventualities. Can you imagine what will happen if there is a fire outbreak at the plant,” asked Mr Mtetwa.
He said a Greenfuel employee who died in the inferno could have been saved if expert help had been rendered.
“He was alive and was able to retrieve a cellphone and some money from his pocket and gave it to someone so that they would tell his wife that he was involved in an accident..” Manica Post