Death toll in Free State train crash rises to 18, rescuers search for more bodies

Johannesburg – The death toll in the fiery collision between a passenger train, truck and car near Kroonstad in the Free State on Thursday morning has risen to 18, the provincial government has confirmed. 

Free State health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said that officials conducting the search and rescue operation had updated that number of recovered bodies to 18. Earlier, the number was 14.

"We are hoping that the number will not increase but we are not ruling it out," Mvambi said.  

He said rescuers were still searching three burnt-out carriages for more bodies.

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Earlier on Thursday, ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said at least 100 people were injured.

A section of the train had burst into flames after colliding with the vehicles. Those who had sustained injuries were treated on the scene, before being transported to nearby hospitals for treatment.

"Provincial fire and medical services were the first to arrive on the scene, finding that several carriages were lying on the side. A fire had broken out in one of the carriages and had begun to spread," Meiring said in a statement.

According to a statement by Shosholoza Meyl, the train was travelling from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg.

Although initial reports indicated that injuries numbered in the dozens, Netcare911 spokesperson Tebogo Magoro earlier confirmed 40 injured passengers and four fatalities.

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