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Twelve children killed in South Africa school minibus crash

Twelve children killed in South Africa school minibus crash
July 10, 2024 Web Desk

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Twelve children were killed in South Africa on Wednesday when a minibus taking them to school near Johannesburg overturned and caught fire after being hit by another vehicle, authorities said.

The driver of the minibus was also killed and seven other children were rushed to hospital, according to officials in Johannesburg's Gauteng province. Television images showed that the minibus was totally destroyed by the fire in the early morning crash in Merafong, more than 70 kilometres (45 miles) west of the city.

Charred schoolbook pages were scattered on the tarmac, as police examined the scene. "A private scholar transport minibus was involved in a tragic accident in the Kokosi-Wedela area in Merafong, claiming the lives of the 12 learners and their driver," the Gauteng government said in a statement.

It could not immediately give the ages of the children but said most were from a primary school, where students are normally aged between six and 13. "Seven other learners have been rushed to a medical facility for urgent medical attention," it added.

Police were investigating what happened but it appeared that the minibus was struck from behind by a small pick-up truck, causing it to overturn and subsequently catch fire, authorities said. . "I am profoundly saddened by this tragic event," Gauteng education minister Matome Chiloane said.

"The loss of our children is a devastating blow to our community, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased and injured learners". South Africa has one of the most developed road networks on the continent but also has one of the worst road safety records. 

In the worst accident this year, 45 people heading to a religious event were killed in March when their bus plunged off a bridge into a ravine in the north of the country. The bus was travelling from neighbouring Botswana to Moria, where an Easter pilgrimage and service have attracted more than a million worshippers in recent years. 

In February, at least nine supporters of the African National Congress party were killed in a bus crash as they were travelling home after attending an electoral rally in the east of the country. And in May, 13 people died in a head-on collision between a minibus taxi and a truck on a major road in the northern province of Limpopo.