'Carnage' at train derailment scene

2010-04-21 16:11

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Johannesburg - It is "absolute carnage" on the scene of a luxury train derailment outside Pretoria, said emergency services on Wednesday.

"It's absolute carnage," Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha told AFP from the scene of the accident.

"Some of the railway coaches are lying on top of each other and (are) absolute wreckages. They had to use hydraulic rescue equipment to cut some of the people free."

Two people, including a pregnant woman, were killed in the accident.

Chris Botha said the pregnant woman went into labour immediately after the accident, possibly from the force of the impact, but neither she nor her baby survived.

"We don't know how far advanced her pregnancy was," Botha said.

"But the foetus was very small. They both died."

Railway Safety Regulator officials are at the scene to conduct an investigation "on the root cause of the accident", the body's spokesperson Lawrence Venkile said.

"The Railway Safety Regulator has learnt with alarm of the Rovos Rail accident early this afternoon in Pretoria where three people were fatally injured, while nine were critically injured," the railway authority said in a statement.

Thirty-five people sustained minor injuries, Botha said.

SWC kick-off

The accident happened just 50 days before the start of the FIFA World Cup.

Luxury liner Rovos Rail confirmed the accident but said it had no details on the nationalities of the passengers involved. A spokesperson said most customers are from Europe and the United States.

"We had a derailment of one of our trains. It was an inbound train from Cape Town to Pretoria," said David Patrick, marketing manager for the private luxury rail company.

"The emergency services are attending to the injured and some of the injured have been taken to hospital," he told AFP.

Safety inspectors said it appeared the accident happened as the train was changing from an electrical locomotive to the Rovos Rail's emblematic steam engine.

"The rest of the train went into motion and ran away before the steam locomotive could be coupled, resulting in a derailment outside the Blue Train depot in Pretoria," the regulator said.

The Blue Train is another famed luxury train that runs between Pretoria and Cape Town. The two companies share some of the same stations, but Rovos Rail operates restored antique trains.

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