ASWA RIVER BRIDGE, EASTERN EQUATORIA —
The road linking the South Sudanese capital to the Ugandan border claimed three more lives in a traffic accident on Thursday.
The latest accident on the Juba to Nimule road occurred less than three months after an estimated 60 people died when a bus and a truck collided head-on on the same road in September.
Amudote Belias Francis, a police officer in the border town of Nimule about 20 kilometers away from Aswa bridge where Thursday's crash occurred, blamed the deadly accident on excessive speed and the fact that one of the vehicles was travelling on the wrong side of the road.
The truck involved in the crash was heading to Juba from Uganda, where vehicles travel on the left side of the road. In South Sudan, vehicles drive on the right.
A passenger on the bus described the chaotic moments before the two vehicles collided.
"The big truck was in the middle of the bridge and it is hooting. Meanwhile, our bus is also going. One wanted to go left and the other one wanted to go right, so they lost control and crashed," said Bibian Alex, a public sector worker.
"I was screaming, 'Oh my God, oh my God,' and I stood up. I held onto the chair in front of me and I was screaming... just screaming, 'Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, oh Jesus,'” she said.
As a tractor hauled what remained of the truck from the middle of the bridge, a line of cars that had been brought to a halt by the accident stretched back as far as the eye could see.
Stiffer penalties needed
The driver of one of the stopped vehicles, Mark Mabir, was worried that he would be letting down a client to whom he had promised to deliver some wedding invitations by Thursday evening.
He and Francis, the policeman at the scene, said stiffer penalties for speeding might help to reduce the number of accidents on the road. Hundreds of people have lost their lives along the Juba to Nimule road since it was opened in 2009.
Francis said that, currently, drivers who exceed the speed limit are fined around 30 South Sudanese pounds ($10).
At 192 kilometers long, the road makes up two-thirds of the 300 kilometers of paved roads in all of South Sudan. Nearly all of the other paved roads are in the capital, Juba.