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Death toll in Zimbabwe train wreck hits 46

©Associated Press
February 3, 2003

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- The death toll in a head-on collision between a packed passenger train and a freight train in northwestern Zimbabwe rose to 46, police said Sunday. A railway worker who might have given a wrong signal was arrested and tested for alcohol, media reports said.

Rudo Muchemenyi of the western Matabeleand province police department told state television four more bodies were retrieved from the wreckage Sunday. Police had reported 42 people killed in the crash Saturday and 64 injured, many seriously.

The transport ministry blamed human error. State television reported the signals on that stretch of rail line -- the busiest in the country -- had been reported faulty since November. It said the state railroad company, troubled by shortages of equipment, also reported outages of electrically powered signals across the country, forcing some signalers to revert to handing written information cards to train crews on their scheduled stops.

About 1,100 people traveling on the passenger train were headed for the resort of Victoria Falls.

Both locomotive crews died instantly when the trains collided on a curve in the track near the coal mining center of Hwange.

The Sunday Mail newspaper said a trackside signal official was arrested and his blood alcohol level was tested. The results were not available.

Normally one of the trains would have been diverted to a siding while the other continued on the single track line.

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