Dozens killed as gas cylinder explodes on bus full of cross-border shoppers

GWANDA – Dozens of people died from burns after a bus exploded in flames on Thursday night.

A gas cylinder in the luggage compartment of the bus is thought to be the source of the deadly fire which engulfed the Brooklyn Bus at around 11PM in West Nicholson, Matabeleland South.

The bus, carrying overnight shoppers headed for the South African border town of Musina, was coming from Zvishavane and had stopped in Filabusi.

Police would require forensic analysis of the remains to determine the number of dead, but the death toll would be “substantial”, a spokesman said.

It is the second bus disaster inside two weeks after two buses collided on November 7, killing 47 people.

At least 27 people were admitted at Gwanda District Hospital after suffering burns.

“First there was a smell, we could smell gas. One of the passengers then went over and told the driver, whose first reaction was to turn on the lights inside the bus. At that moment there was a huge explosion and there was fire everywhere. The heat was intense,” one survivor said.

Survivors told of the desperation that followed as people tried to get out of the bus which was now a fireball. Many were burnt alive, their screams piercing the night calm.

“It was hell on earth. There was just nothing one could do to help. I have never seen anything like it,” said motorist Khulekani Ndlovu, who arrived moments after the bus caught fire.

The high cost of gas in Zimbabwe has forced many Zimbabweans to make the risky decision to take their gas cylinders to neighbouring South Africa for a refill. Zimbabweans pay an average $10 (bonds)/kg for gas, while South Africans pay just R25/kg.