Ethanol disaster: government seeks help from SA pathologists

The government has sought the services of four South African based pathologists to help with the identification of 17 victims of a deadly accident near Checheche last week in Manicaland that claimed the lives of 24 people.

The accident happened when a truck carrying a funeral party, was involved in an accident with a tanker transporting highly inflammable ethanol from the Chisumbanje plant. Most of the victims were in the truck and survived the initial impact of the crash, but were burnt to death after the vehicles burst into flames.

The truck was on its way to Chipinge from Chegutu carrying the funeral party and the coffin of Clifford Muyambo when the accident occurred around 6am. It took five hours for the fire brigade from Mutare to get to the scene of the crash.

Claris Madhuku, a family spokesman for the Muyambo family, told SW Radio Africa on Monday that many lives could have been saved if help had reached them within the first 30 minutes.

He said when he got to the scene 30 minutes after the crash, some survivors were still screaming for help but nobody was brave enough to go near the intense heat from the inferno.

Madhuku disclosed that the Muyambo family has since disapproved of an idea to bury the 17 unidentified victims in a mass grave.

He said the problem with that idea was that some of the victims who died were Clifford’s neighbours in Chegutu and it was disrespectful to their families.

‘We have our elders who strongly believe it is untraditional to bury our kin and kith with strangers,’ said Madhuku, adding that a government pathologist told them it was possible to identify all the victims using forensics.

‘We saw the government pathologist who visited the mortuary over the weekend and his assessment was that it is possible the victims will be identifiable,’ he said.

Madhuku confirmed that pathologists hired from South Africa were due to arrive in the country on Monday. He said officials from the health ministry told them it would take weeks before all the victims are identified.

‘The biggest challenge now is for the pathologist to take samples from surviving relatives as well as from the victims’ toothbrushes, combs or clothes. It means the team travelling to Chegutu to get samples as well,’ according to Madhuku. – SW Radio Africa News

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