Runaway train derails after causing havoc in Namibia

Niël Terblanché

A TransNamib train that travelled more than 150 kilometres without a driver caused widespread panic along the entire length of the railway between Oshivelo and Ondangwa before it derailed.

Abigail Raubenheimer, the manager of corporate communications at the national transporter confirmed the shocking incident and said that the derailment occurred at about 09:00 this morning.

She added that the train consisted of one locomotive and 26 empty wagons.

“We report that 14 wagons derailed, while the locomotive and the remaining wagons stayed on the tracks. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported, and there was no product spillage as the wagons were empty. The impact was minor,” she said in an official statement.

Initial reports suggested that the driver of the train that was underway from Ondangwa to Tsumeb got off the locomotive at Oshivelo to check on the mechanical condition of the machinery when the train suddenly and mysteriously started moving back in the direction from where it came.

The train picked up speed and as it progressed, word of the runaway colossus spread like wildfire through communities living along the railway to Ondangwa.

People were warned to stay well clear of the out-of-control train and the railway track to avoid injury or loss of life.

The train eventually derailed at a sharp turn in the tracks in the area of the Omashaka Location, less than 1 000 metres away from the dead stop at the Ondangwa station where an even bigger disaster could have occurred had the driverless train reached it.

According to Raubenheimer, TransNamib promptly activated its emergency response plan.

“The area affected by the derailment has been barricaded, and the line has been closed to ensure safety and facilitate a thorough investigation,” she said.

Raubenheimer conveyed TransNamib’s sincere apologies to its stakeholders and customers for any inconvenience caused by this incident.

“Please be assured that we are prioritising the restoration of service on the line,” she added.

She stated that an investigation team, along with an emergency response team, has been mobilised to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

Raubenheimer indicated that TransNamib will provide updates as more information becomes available.

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