It was hell, says inferno survivor

ONIAS Ndlovu, a survivor of the Thursday night bus inferno near West Nicholson, has described the scene as one of absolute devastation and shock.

ONIAS Ndlovu, a survivor of the Thursday night bus inferno near West Nicholson, has described the scene as one of absolute devastation and shock.


Onias Ndlovu shows his hands

Since then, Ndlovu said he has been having nightmares, battling horrifying images of people being burnt alive.

The cries for help, the wailing, the screams and the horror of watching people being burnt alive still haunts him, he said from his Gwanda Provincial Hospital bed yesterday.

“The smell of burning flesh, the flames, the screams…,” Ndlovu broke down before finishing the sentence.

After regaining composure, he proceeded: “It still rings loud in my mind. You could hear the structure of the bus shattering in flames.

“It was so frightful, and more heartbreaking is that we could only, but watch helplessly in horror, and offer no rescue or assistance to those trapped inside the burning bus.

“The screams were so heartbreaking, they screamed to their death and no one could rescue them.”

Thirty-three people were reportedly burnt beyond recognition after the Brooklyn bus burst into flames around 11pm at the 181km peg along the Bulawayo-Beitbridge highway.

The survivors, 27 of them, sustained various degrees of injuries.

The bus, which was heading to Musina, South Africa, from Zvishavane, was carrying mostly cross-border traders.

The accident comes at a time when the country is still struggling to come to terms with the recent Rusape bus accident that claimed 50 lives.

Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said initial investigations had shown that a gas tank that was inside the bus exploded, causing the inferno.

“I was seated three seats from the driver’s seat. There was some smell emanating from the front, and no one could tell what it was.

“It is at that time that the driver switched on the interior lights, slowed down the bus, showing indications of wanting to stop so that we investigate the source of the choking smell,” Ndlovu, aged 42, who resides at Ensindi resettlement area, about 16km from Gwanda town, said.

Ndlovu boarded the bus from Gwanda.

“Before the bus stopped, there was a huge explosion and in seconds, a huge fire broke out, quickly spreading to the rear of the bus,” he said.

“The blaze spread at terrifying speed, with the flames starting just behind the driver’s seat before engulfing the whole bus.

“I doubt even the Fire Brigade could have saved them even if they had arrived on time.”

In a matter of minutes, Ndlovu said, what was once a Brooklyn Express coach had been reduced to a charred shell by the fire.

Ndlovu was the only survivor still admitted at Gwanda provincial hospital yesterday.  He suffered burns on both of his hands, thighs, ears, face and back.

Gwanda Provincial Hospital acting medical superintendent Rutendo Manyati said 16 of the injured survivors had been admitted at the hospital.

But the majority were discharged on request by relatives.

“We admitted 16 patients who had various injuries including burns and fractures; others were transferred on request to hospitals closer to home,” she said.

Manyati confirmed that drug and medicine shortages at the institution presented challenges in treating the injured.

“We have managed to mobilise resources from the provincial office. The national office is also involved in resource mobilisation to assist the injured,” she said.

“However, there are some resources we are having difficulties in sourcing, but luckily we have stakeholders who have reached out and expressed the desire to assist with those resources.”

Ndlovu haf to buy some of his medication.

 “I just do not know how I managed to get out of the bus as there were flames all over. the smoke was also choking us and there was a stampede,” he said.