By Alix Culbertson, News Reporter
A train crashes into a lorry and a car on the way from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg, causing carriages to burst into flames.
The driver of a lorry is being blamed for a train crash in South Africa that has left at least 18 dead and 260 people injured.
More than 400 passengers were travelling on the train from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg when it smashed into the lorry on a level crossing.
Carriages burst into flames as people scrambled to get off the train, with many trying to salvage their luggage.
The crash happened between Hennenman and Kroonstad in the country’s Free State at about 9.15am local time (11.15am GMT) on Thursday.
The truck driver, who was towing two trailers, is alleged to have tried crossing the tracks ahead of the train.
Mthuthuzeli Swartz, acting chief executive of the state-owned passenger rail agency, said “human error” caused the accident.
Witnesses have said the lorry and trailers were halfway across the train’s path when the crash happened, dragging the lorry about 400m (1,300ft).
Train passenger Tiaan Esterhuizen said the train was “blowing its horn for a long time” before the crash, adding: “We were in the restaurant section of the train eating breakfast when we felt a jerk and soon after the train came to a standstill.
“Some of the people told me afterward they heard the train blowing its horn for a long time before the accident happened.
“We took the train because we thought it would be safer than being on the roads.”
The lorry driver and his assistant reportedly survived with only minor injuries.
Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi has claimed that the lorry driver, who is in hospital, is to blame.
Officials warned the number of people who died could rise further as the site is cleared.
Mr Maswanganyi said: “Police are investigating. The truck driver was taking chances… that cost lots of lives.
“The truck driver has been taken to hospital where we are going to do a blood test to verify if he was sober or not, or what was the problem.”
An investigation into the crash continues.