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28 die in Northern Region road accidents

Shock and fear have gripped people in the Northern Region (NR) as police have confirmed the death of about 28 people in three road accidents.

Apart from the OP bus tragedy which occurred at Zolozolo on Tuesday, claiming five lives in the process, NR police have confirmed that another accident at Mapanjira in Mzimba on the same day, killed one person, identified as Osward Nyirenda.

NR Police spokesperson, Peter Kalaya, said the accident occurred at the exact spot where 22 Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers died after an Iveco vehicle they were travelling in overturned due after one of the tyres burst.

He said the track, registration number MZ 1367, was carrying 100 bags of cement and 120 bags of fertiliser with 10 passengers on board.

Commenting on the Tuesday accident, Mzuzu Police Station spokesperson, Martin Bwanali, said four people were seriously injured after sustaining serious injuries and were referred to Mzuzu Central Hospital while 14 escaped with minor injuries.

He said the bus, registration number DA 4697, was being driven by Yona Pundi, 37, who is in police custody to answer charges of causing death by reckless driving.

“The driver opted for the Zolozolo route while avoiding traffic officers on the M1 Road. Upon arrival at the bridge, he engaged a wrong gear, forcing the bus to descend and consequently plunge into the river,” Bwanali said.

In the aftermath of the MDF tragedy, 14 soldiers are still in hospital.

Kalaya, in an interview, said Mapanjira area is prone to accidents; hence, drivers are supposed to observe road signs.

“The area is slightly bent. There are rumbled stripes to warn drivers to slow down, apart from signs on both sides, which tell road users not to drive more than 50 kilometres per hour. We suspect that such accidents are happening because drivers are not observing roads signs,” Kalaya said.

NR Traffic Officer, Stanly Mwale, on Tuesday expressed surprise that the bus driver was trying to avoid traffic officers who were not even interested in him.

But one of the eye witnesses, Abraham Mbewa, said it is sad that drivers front business interests at the expense of safeguarding passengers’ lives.

On his part, Chigomegzo Banda from Katawa said travelling has, in the recent past, become a death trap.

This comes at a time when results from the inquiry by the special committee which President Peter Mutharika instituted are yet to be made public, despite reports that it concluded its work.

When asked on the matter, Minister of Transport, Jappie Mhango, said: “The results have not yet been presented to the President, so they can’t be made available to the public yet”.

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