Sukulwenkosi Dube, Plumtree Correspondent
SEVENTY five passengers were pulled to safety when an Ajay Motorways bus they were travelling in plunged into a river in Mangwe District following heavy rains in the area this week.
Passengers escaped through windows while most of the goods which were loaded onto the bus were swept away.
Chief Sangulube said the incident occurred in Sanzukwi area on Tuesday at around 3PM.
He said the bus, bound for Brunapeg and coming from Bulawayo, plunged into the Mathongwane stream which is a tributary to Sanzukwi River.
Chief Sangulube said when the driver reached the stream, water levels were high and he waited for about an hour for the water to subside.
When the driver finally attempted to cross, he failed to stay on the bridge and the bus plunged into the water.
Chief Sangulube told The Chronicle: “We received heavy rains on Tuesday afternoon and when the bus reached the stream the water level was too high and the bridge was not visible. The bus parked for about an hour and the driver attempted to cross around 3PM.
“As he was driving across, the driver strayed off the bridge and the bus fell over into the river. The entire luggage which was loaded onto the bus tipped over and fell into the water while some of the bags which people had inside the bus were damaged by water.”
He said when he got to the scene he found the bus lying on its side with broken windows. The chief said injured people were taken to Brunapeg Hospital for treatment.
Chief Sangulube said passengers, with the assistance of villagers, managed to salvage some of their luggage while some goods were swept away.
He said a woman who was travelling alone from Bulawayo to Brunapeg area sustained severe injuries as both her arms were broken.
Sanzukwi area village head, Mkhubazi Ncube, who was among the people who helped rescue passengers from the bus, said water levels in the stream were too high when the driver attempted to cross.
“The stream is very wide and when we receive heavy rains the water level rises and overlaps the bridge thereby making it risky for vehicles to get across. On that day the area received heavy rains that were accompanied by strong winds,” said Ncube.
“We managed to get all the passengers out through the windows. Unfortunately some were slightly injured when the bus fell over and others got injured while trying to find their way out of the bus.”
Ncube said it was important for bus drivers to desist from crossing flooded rivers as crossing puts the lives of people at risk. He said during last year’s rainy season, a bus plunged into Embakwe River which is also in Mangwe District and passengers managed to escape with minor injuries.