From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS - Train accident in Tanzania

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Sun, 30 Jun 2002 21:24:59 -0700

ACNS 3044 - TANZANIA - 29 June 2002

Train accident in Tanzania

A letter from the Chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, Bishop
Simon Chiwanga

Greetings, friends around the world:

Most of you have doubtless heard about the terrible train accident that
happened yesterday, Monday, near Dodoma, and perhaps you have been wondering
how we have been affected here in the Diocese of Mpwapwa.

The accident happened here, within the boundaries of the diocese, a few
kilometres west of the village of Msagali. A passenger train, en route from
Dar es Salaam to Dodoma and points north and west, stopped on an incline,
blocked on the single track behind a broken-down train. The brakes of the
train failed; the whole train began rolling backwards; and the engine, which
had been switched off while waiting, could not be restarted. The passenger
train continued to roll backward in an uncontrolled fashion until colliding
at high speed into the back of a freight train, travelling in the same
direction, that is, toward Dar es Salaam.

Perhaps one thousand people were riding the train at the time of the
accident. As word spread, busses, lorries, and private cars were organised
to bring the injured to three area hospitals, but by far the greatest number
came to the closest one, our own Mpwapwa District Hospital, which has 167
beds. The most recent death toll we have heard is that 158 bodies have been
taken to Dodoma for identification, but that number is sure to increase.

As of Tuesday morning, 243 people had been treated at Mpwapwa Hospital. Only
six people died after arriving at the hospital. Ten people had major surgery
last night and today, of whom nine survived. Medical treatment of the
wounded continues with help from staff from Dodoma and Morogoro Regional
Hospitals, Muhimbili Government Hospital in Dar es Salaam, and from the
Diocesan St Luke's Clinic. In addition, Professor Philemon Sarungi, who is
both a highly qualified surgeon and the country's Minister of Defence, came
from Dodoma, where he was attending Parliament sessions. Visitors,
journalists, and panicked relatives have been prohibited from the
overcrowded wards while the injured are prioritised and treated. Canon
Magawa, the Anglican chaplain at the hospital, Bishop Chiwanga and other
clergy made provided pastoral care to both the accident victims and to the
hard-working medical team, including visiting the accident scene. A list of
the Mpwapwa patients has been transmitted to Dodoma to assist relatives,
otherwise waiting at the makeshift morgue in a sports stadium. Most
poignantly, there are four children at Mpwapwa Hospital whose identities and
home places are completely unknown.

Anglicans in Mpwapwa spent a very busy 24 hours after the accident. The
small restaurant operated by the Mother's Union, called Umaki Mgahawa,
cooked meals for the doctors and other medical staff who were working around
the clock, and also brought cooked maize porridge to the hospital to feed
patients. Dr Rachel Tarling, a Crosslinks missionary from England, plus the
other doctor and three nurses from St Luke's Clinic, worked triage in the

On Tuesday things had calmed considerably, and attention is turning to
helping people cope with the tragedy. The government announced Tuesday and
Wednesday as official days of mourning; flags were flying at half-staff.
President Benjamin William Mkapa and other national leaders visited the
Mpwapwa Hospital and the scene of the accident at Msagali. Here in Mpwapwa
we are planning an ecumenical service to commemorate those who died and
there will doubtless be one in Dodoma as well.

Please continue to pray for us in Tanzania, especially for the bereaved, the
injured, the orphaned, and the stranded from this terrible collision.

+Simon E Chiwanga

The ACNSlist is published by the Anglican Communion Office, London.

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