Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mostly Americans on train

Mostly Americans on train

2010-04-21 17:04

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'Carnage' at train derailment scene
35 injured in Rovos derailment
2 killed in Rovos Rail derailment

AP and Lunga Biyela, News24
Pretoria - A luxury train carrying foreign tourists, most of them Americans, derailed on Wednesday in Pretoria, killing two workers and injuring dozens of people as coaches flipped and crumpled against one another. The voyage had begun in Cape Town and was close to its destination when 17 coaches of the Rovos Rail train derailed just outside a station in Pretoria, said Johan Pieterse of the capital's community safety department. Pieterse said two people died at the scene. "Patients were strewn all over the scene," said Werner Vermaak, spokesperson for ER24, Sapa reported. One of the victims was pregnant. Netcare 911's Chris Botha told Sapa the pregnant woman went into labour immediately after the accident, possibly from the force of the impact, but neither she nor her baby survived. Botha told News24 that the injured have been taken to Zuid Afrikaans and Steve Biko hospitals in Pretoria.Power tools usedThe accident comes just seven weeks before hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists are expected to descend upon South Africa for the World Cup. The passengers included 44 Americans, four each from France, South Africa and Britain, and three from Germany, for a total of 59, said Rovos Rail Managing Director Rohan Vos. Another Rovos Rail official had said earlier 55 passengers were aboard. Vermaak said power tools had to be used to cut some passengers from the wreckage. The Cape Town-Pretoria route can cost up to R22 000 in the Royal suite for a two-day trip. Rovos Rail offers holiday trips across Africa. The Rovos Rail website says the trains can carry as many as 72 passengers in 36 cabins. The routes were established in 1989 and run with restored locomotives.Wheels slippedThe wheels of the train were allegedly slipping on the tracks as it went past the Lyttelton Dolomite mine in Botha Avenue on Wednesday morning, said a witness."I was at my client's offices which are situated right next to the train tracks passing through to Centurion," Hannes Louwrens told News24."Between 10:00 and 11:00 this (Wednesday) morning, I was in the boardroom which faces the train tracks when I saw the Rovos train pass by," he said. "Usually I would only see the train past by quickly, but today for some odd reason, the train was travelling very slowly. At some stage it looked like the train couldn't get momentum to progress forward."Louwrens said he could see the train's wheels slipping on the tracks as well as sparks flying off the wheels."I am not experienced on this topic, but I've seen this before, with other trains coming to the mine to collect cargo," he said."This is usually caused when the train is overloaded, or the track surface is damaged, they then need to offload some coaches or train cars before continuing."The Rovos train eventually did pass by, but only after a lot of effort and noise from the main engines,” he added.Metrorail trains delayedDavid Patrick, Rovos Rail's marketing manager, told News24 he would not be able to comment on the train's condition."At the moment we're still concerned about the wellbeing of our passengers," Patrick said.Metrorail spokesperson Sibusiso Ngomane said that train traffic between Johannesburg and Pretoria would be subjected to a 45 minute delay while officials try to get the wreckage off the tracks."We have deployed buses between Centurion and Pretoria to help us deal with ferrying people between the two points," Ngomane said."At this stage, we cannot say when services will return to normal," he said.
- AP
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