Eight pilgrims killed in Zimbabwe bus fire

(Photo: World Council of Churches / Peter Williams)Traditional style offering at the 8th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Harare, Zimbabwe, Dec. 3-14 1998. Morning Worship: Offering for Hurricane Victims in Central America.

Eight people have died after a bus carrying 62 Anglican pilgrims visiting a shrine dedicated to Saint Bernard Mizeki in Marondera, near the Zimbabwean capital Harare, caught fire.

The pilgrims were returning June 16 from the annual Bernard Mizeki commemorations, a significant event that attracts tens of thousands of people each year, La Croix International reported.

Saint Bernard Mizeki was an African Christian missionary and martyr who died on June 18, 1896.

Bernard Mizeki (sometimes spelt Bernard Mzeki; c. 1861 – 18 June 1896) was a missionary and martyr. Born in Mozambique, he moved to Cape Town, attended an Anglican school, and became a Christian.

"Along with other diocesan leaders, we went to the scene of the accident," Anglican Bishop Erick Ruwona of the Manicaland diocese said in a statement.

While "54 pilgrims survived the fire... we are deeply saddened to confirm that eight pilgrims are still missing, and we fear they perished in the blaze," he said.

The bus caught on fire Sunday night, triggering the pilgrims' deaths, who, police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said, were "burned beyond recognition."

"We have not been able to identify the deceased individuals; DNA analysis will be required. Two people are also missing," he said. The cause of the fire remains unknown.


However, after visiting the scene on June 16, Felix Mhona, Zimbabwe's Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development, noted that "the bus operator openly admitted that the bus did not have a fitness certificate, meaning it was not roadworthy."

"A bus without a fitness certificate should not be used to transport people, and the police will arrest the bus owner and driver as part of the investigation," he said.

The police spokesperson said that the company's other buses have been banned from operating immediately.

The Diocese of Manicaland is working closely with authorities, "including the prosecutor's office, police, and emergency services, to establish all details of the accident and provide support and assistance to the affected families."

"We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in this tragic event. Our prayers and thoughts are with them during this difficult time."

Anglican leaders are also calling on all members of their community and the public to pray for and offer support and assistance to the families affected by this tragedy.

The Herald newspaper reported that 66 people were on the bus, and 58 manged to escape.

Of Zimbabwe's population of some 17 million about 80 percent of them are Christians.


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