Although the cause of the fire has not been established, it is believed that a spark from the overhead cable that supplies electricity to the train caused an explosion.
The train was en route from Stanger to Durban when the incident occurred near the Greenwood Park train station.
Frantic passengers, some with toddlers, saw the flames and believed the fire would spread to the carriages. It is believed that they forced open the doors and leapt from the moving train into bushes alongside the track.
More than 80 passengers sustained serious to moderate injuries when they jumped.
Emergency services rescued the injured and transported them to local hospitals. Those who were not seriously injured where treated at the scene. Women with babies were taken to hospital immediately.
The cable was deactivated so that the search and rescue team could look for missing passengers.
Wiseman Sikade, who was on his way home, said he panicked when another passenger ran through the train screaming that one of the carriages was on fire.
People leapt from their seats and rushed towards the train’s doors.
“Suddenly we heard a bang almost like a bomb had gone off. People were screaming and crying. Some pushed opened the door and jumped out,” he said.
Sikade said that even though the train was still moving slowly, people flung themselves out of their carriages as they believed that the fire would spread.
“It was very scary. When I got on to the train, I had no idea this would happen,” he said.
Othelia Mabeza clutched her right leg which she injured when she jumped from the train on to a platform.
“The train was going really slowly when I saw the flames. Everyone was screaming. I could just see people trying to get out,” she said.
Mabeza said she had to jump even though she knew that there was a possibility she could die.
“I was supposed to die, but God saved me. I didn’t know where I was going to land, but I had just to get out of there,” she said.
Inspector Renesh Ramsukh from the nearby Greenwood Park police station said he heard a loud bang, which was followed by a ball of flames.
“The fire was on top of the train. I wasn’t sure what was going on, then I heard screams and knew that the train was in trouble,” he said.
Umhlanga fire department commander Zwe Thusi said a search and rescue team was sent to conduct a sweep for victims and to secure the train.
Thusi said it is possible that sparks from the overhead cable ignited, but this was still under investigation.
ER24 paramedic Avishkar Mothilal said passengers sustained soft tissue injuries, broken limbs and cuts and bruises. He said many were treated for shock. – The Witness