Monday, January 24, 2022

Police beef up security as Lobatse residents scramble for fuel from derailed train

Lobatse police have beefed up security to guard the area around which a Botswana Railways goods train carrying diesel and petrol was derailed on Thursday. The train, which was ferrying fuel from Mafikeng, South Africa to the northern parts of Botswana, derailed near Peleng dam in Lobatse. When the police arrived on the scene, hundreds of people were already scrambling to collect the diesel and petrol that was gushing from the tankers.

The police had to move fast to control the frantic crowd. Meanwhile, BR is working around the clock to contain the spill and ensure minimal hazard to both humans and the environment. Information passed to Sunday Standard suggests that the derailed wagons were carrying about 50, 000 liters of fuel and authorities are already bracing for massive damage especially because the spill occurred near Peleng dam. It has also been revealed that BR is in a frantic search for a competitive company that would drain the fuel from the derailed wagons.

“The difficulty here is that the train derailed in very dangerous terrain that is inaccessible for most trucks. While BR is trying to find a company that can reach the area, more fuel is spilling from the wagons onto the environment,” said a source. This was confirmed by Mike Steel, the general manager of Unitrans Botswana, who said BR contacted them for assistance to drain the diesel and petrol from the derailed wagons soon after the accident occurred. He revealed that they immediately rushed to the scene and later realized that their trucks could not reach the area where the wagons had derailed.

“The area was inaccessible and we were afraid to take any risks that might result in a disaster,” he said. Although circumstances that led the train to derail are not clear, reports indicate that the train was travelling at very high speed. There are also reports of a possible mechanical fault that could have led to the accidents. Sources have also revealed that BR is under immense pressure from environmentalists who have expressed concern at the corporation’s lack of capacity and capability to handle a spillage of such magnitude and ensure minimal damage to the environment. Lobatse Station Commander, Superintendent Loeto Ramabokwa, confirmed the accident, saying the derailment occurred near Peleng dam in Lobatse at around lunch time on Thursday. “The police went to the scene to investigate.

The goods train was pulling about 30 wagons, 11 of which were carrying cement while 25 were full of diesel and petrol. Three of the wagons were already leaking when we arrived on the scene,” he said. He added that they have deployed some officers to provide security at the scene. For her part, BR spokesperson, Kefilwe Batsalelwang, said only nine tankers were damaged after the accident.

She added that environmental experts were on the scene to do assessment, determine the extent of damage on the environment and employ appropriate rehabilitation measures. “We are still investigating to find out what could have caused the accident. Meanwhile the process of restoring the tankers and repairing the railway line is ongoing. We are confident that the railway line will open for business today,” she said.

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