Thursday, October 31, 2013

22 Perish in Ethanol Inferno in Zimbabwe

22 perish in ethanol inferno

October 31, 2013
Samuel Kadungure in CHIPINGE

TWENTY-TWO people were killed — many burnt beyond recognition — after a Mazda T35 truck ferrying mourners collided head-on with a Green Fuel tanker carrying 45 000 litres of ethanol which burst into flames on impact at 7am yesterday.

The vehicles collided near Checheche Growth Point along the Tanganda-Chiredzi highway in Chisumbanje.

The T35 truck — laden with Muyambo family members — was also carrying a coffin bearing the body of Clifford Muyambo who died on Monday.

The body also got burnt.

Twenty-one victims were burnt beyond recognition.

Police said six people had been rescued, but two died on their way to Chipinge District Hospital.

Four mourners, among them a child, were admitted and their condition was said to be critical.

They sustained head, spinal, internal injuries, fractured ribs and limbs.

Tragedy struck barely 20km from the mourners’ destination at Mariya Village where Muyambo was scheduled to be buried today.

Manicaland police traffic co-ordinator Chief Inspector Cyprian Mukahanana confirmed the accident.

He said investigations were still in progress.
However, preliminary investigations point to driver fatigue.

The mourners — who were on their way from Chegutu — had travelled all night.

Apart from the mourners, a Green Fuel employee and tyre fitter who was with three others in the gutted truck was among people who died on the spot.

His lower part of the body was reduced to ashes.

The tanker was Harare-bound.

Charred remains of the deceased were taken to Chipinge District Hospital mortuary where concerns were raised over the facility’s capacity to accommodate all the bodies.

Mr Johnson Chanyongonya, an eyewitness, said: “I was one of the first people to arrive within minutes of the accident and we rescued victims who were in the T35 truck.

We retrieved them from the wreckage and put them to safety in the water way. Minutes later, the tanker exploded and the ethanol started flowing in the direction of the survivors. Since ethanol is inflammable, it caught fire and engulfed all the victims. We were all forced to retreat.

“The victims were burnt while we watched. We could not help the situation because the fire was ferocious. They died a painful death.

“Eighteen people who were in the truck died on the spot, and two on their way to Chipinge District Hospital. The Green Fuel truck had three passengers and one died on the spot, while two including the driver escaped with serious injuries.

“We had managed to put six victims to safety and administered first aid as we took them to St Peter’s Mission Hospital. Two failed to make it. Their condition was beyond remedy.

They sustained head and spinal injuries and had also lost a lot of blood,” said Mr Chanyongonya.

Said Chipinge South National Assembly member Cde Enock Porusingazi: “This is really a black day. The victims struggled to death. Imagine what they went through as they were charred to ashes. They had travelled all the way from Chegutu only to meet their fate about 20km from their home. Even the coffin and its contents were also reduced to ashes.”

A spokesperson of the Muyambo family, Mrs Irikidzai Mtetwa, said her family was shattered.

“It is a tragedy. We are in deep mourning. We are shocked that things have turned this way. It is unbelievable that the whole family has been wiped just like that. It is painful. This will be a permanent scar to the Muyambo family,” said Mrs Mtetwa.

Zanu-PF provincial chairman Ambassador John Mvundura, who visited the scene in the afternoon, said the accident must be declared a national disaster.

“I am sorry about the occurrence of a disaster of this magnitude in Checheche. I know people die in accidents, but in my whole life I have never witnessed anything like this. I am shocked that a whole family perished and was reduced to ashes by fire.”

Meanwhile, Green Fuel has extended condolences to the bereaved families.

“Green Fuel joins the Chisumbanje community, the nation at large and most importantly the families of the deceased, in mourning the lives tragically lost in a road accident which occurred today in Chipinge South, along the Tanganda–Chiredzi Highway near Checheche.

“As we come to terms with the devastating aftermath of this tragedy, we convey our sincere heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased,” reads part of the statement.

20 feared dead in Chisumbanje accident

October 30, 2013
Abel Zhakata in Mutare

At least 20 people have been burnt to death after a Greenfuel haulage truck carrying ethanol collided head on with a T35 truck ferrying mourners.

Manicaland police traffic coordinator Superintendent Mukahanana confirmed the accident which occurred at around 7am in Chisumbanje.

He said all the passengers in the T35 truck, including the driver, were burnt to death.

Eye witnesses said firefighters were still battling to contain the fire and the bodies of the deceased are yet to be retrieved from the flames.

A coffin with a corpse which was in the T 35 truck was also burnt.

Facts about ethanol fires . . .

October 31, 2013

THE nation’s drive towards alternative fuels carries a danger many communities, the world over, have been slow to recognise: Ethanol fires are harder to put out than petrol fires and require a special type of firefighting foam.

Many fire departments in the world do not have the foam, do not have enough of the foam, or are not well-trained in how to apply it.

The foam is also more expensive than conventional foam.

Experts say if a tanker happened to be hauling ethanol on a rural bypass and catches fire, firefighters should let the fire burn out as that cuts down on environmental pollution.

For every 90 gallons of ethanol burning, it takes six gallons of the special foam to subdue the fire.

Five gallons of the foam cost US$115, and the foam has a shelf life of 10 years, after which it should be disposed of.

Ethanol fires are more ferocious because ethanol has more alcohol than other fuels.

The foams that have been used since the 1960s form a blanket on top of the burning petrol and put out the fire by cutting off oxygen supply.

This, however, is ineffective against ethanol with its high alcohol, often distilled from corn or sugarcane, as it eats through the traditional foam drawing in oxygen which makes it continue to burn.

Because of this, firefighters often decide to allow the fuel to burn out.

In most cases they will be dealing with spills instead of fuel fires. And when such spills occur at the level of a tanker, disaster is inevitable.

Wrecks involving ordinary cars and trucks are not the major concern.

They carry modest amounts of fuel, and it is typically a low-concentration, a blend of 10 percent ethanol and gasoline. A large amount of conventional foam can usually extinguish those fires. The picture dramatically changes where thousands of litres are involved.
However, fires requiring a special alcohol-resistant foam that relies on material to smother the flames cost around US$90 to US$115 for a five-gallon container.

— The Sun Journal-HR.

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