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18 Killed, Hundreds Injured in South Africa Train Crash


A fireman pulls a hose as he works beside derailed train cars after an accident near Kroonstad in South Africa's Free State province, 110 kilometers southwest of Johannesburg, Jan. 4, 2018.

A passenger train burst into flames Thursday after striking a truck at a crossing in rural South Africa. At least 18 people were killed, and about 260 were injured.

Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi said the train jumped the tracks after hitting the truck, which was trying to cross in front of it.

"The truck driver was taking chances. He thought that he was going to pass through,'' Maswanganyi said. "Little did he know that the train was going to hit him. That has cost a lot of lives.''

The train, packed with hundreds returning home after holidays, was near near Kroonstad at the time of the crash, on a trip from Port Elizabeth to the country's commercial hub, Johannesburg.

The wreckage of a trailer is seen after a truck-train collision near Kroonstad in South Africa's Free State province, southwest of Johannesburg, Jan. 4, 2018.
The wreckage of a trailer is seen after a truck-train collision near Kroonstad in South Africa's Free State province, southwest of Johannesburg, Jan. 4, 2018.

Several passengers were trapped inside the burning cars, while others managed to scamper out and away from the flames and smoke.

The driver of the truck was not injured but was taken to a hospital, where he was to receive a "blood test to verify if he was sober or not, or what was the problem," Maswanganyi told reporters.

Mthuthuzeli Swartz, acting chief executive of the state-owned passenger rail agency, told local media outlet eNCA that the truck was towing two trailers and managed to get halfway across the tracks when it was hit.

"Human error'' caused the accident, he said. Local police were still investigating the incident.

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