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Bus Crash Kills 36 in Zimbabwe

June 10, 2002

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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ A bus carrying mostly student teachers collided with a grain truck and burst into flames, killing at least 36 people, state radio reported Monday.

Most of the victims burnt to death when gasoline ignited and gutted the vehicles. Bags of corn flew from the truck into the bus, trapping passengers inside and fueling the blaze, police and rescuers said.

Twenty-six survivors managed to break out of the rear window of the bus. Several were seriously injured.

Most of the passengers were students from the Masvingo Teachers Training College in southern Zimbabwe who were returning home late Sunday after competing in sports activities in Harare.

``It is horrific. It numbs the mind. They watched their friends burned alive,″ Higher Education Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi said Monday after visiting the scene.

Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition, he said.

Radio reports said students on the bus stayed in Harare after their sporting event to watch a soccer match and began their 190-mile trip home shortly before nightfall.

The bus collided with a truck about 35 miles from the southern provincial center of Masvingo.

Officials believed the grain truck was trying to pass another vehicle and struck the bus head-on on an isolated stretch of the highway, Mumbengegwi said.

Some survivors walked to a village a few miles away in search of help, witnesses said.

Bus crashes are common in Zimbabwe. Many are blamed on speeding on open roads as well as poor maintenance and shortages of new tires and spare parts in the crumbling economy.

Update hourly