Cape Town, South Africa – A preliminary finding has revealed that copper cable theft caused a passenger train accident near Saulsville, Pretoria, on Thursday, resulting in injury to at least 200 people, transport department spokesman Tiyani Rikhotso, has indicated.
Rikhotso said at least 50 metres worth of copper cable was stolen from different parts of the rail track, forcing the railway's technology to change from automatic to manual.
A board of inquiry would investigate the accident, which has caused substantial damage estimated at US$ 2.2 million, the spokesman said.
The accident happened around 7am local time when one train rammed into the back of stationary train.
PANA reported that two people, including a train driver, sustained critical injuries.
Transport Minister Ben Martins has, meantime, called for a harsh punishment for those found guilty of cable theft.
“Cable theft on our rail lines and system is a serious crime. It deprives our commuters of safe travel on our trains to their various destinations,” Martins said in a statement.
“It also destroys infrastructure into which large sums of money have been invested to provide commuters with a safe and reliable public transport service.”
In another development, several trains were torched in Durban Thursday, and preliminary reports indicate that there was a strong link between the incidents and the strike by the National Transport Movement (NTM), which is seeking official recognition.
Official sources said part of the intention of the arsonists was to sabotage the rail operations during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as well as to engage in activities that would undermine the effective running of the commuter services.