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Unite Behind calls for CT rail crisis to be declared national disaster

Twelve coaches were destroyed in an arson attack at Cape Town station on Easter Sunday, resulting in damages of R33 million.

FILE: The wreckage of Metrorail carriages after a train fire. Picture: Cindy Archillies/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Lobby group Unite Behind said that the latest train torching in Cape Town drives home its point that the rail crisis needs to be declared a national disaster.

Twelve coaches were destroyed in an arson attack at Cape Town station on Easter Sunday, resulting in damages of R33 million.

A suspect, Thobela Xoseni, was arrested a day after the incident and has since appeared in court.

The court ordered Xoseni to go for a psychiatric assessment, and he will remain in police custody in the meantime.

Last week, several civil society groups called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare the state of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa an emergency, and for the army can be deployed to protect rail infrastructure.

Unite Behind organiser Lumkile Sizile said the latest incident is proof of the severity of the situation.

“We want our president and transport minister [Blade Nzimande] to take the situation seriously. There are few trains in the Western Cape, a lot of people are struggling... this is a national problem,” Sizile said.

Meanwhile, Metrorail in the Western Cape expressed fears on Tuesday that the latest train fire could be a sign of more to come.

In 2018, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) told members of Parliament it lost R636 million to train fires over the past three and a half years, with the Western Cape seeing most of these incidents.

From July to October 2018, Metrorail lost several trains due to fires in Cape Town, and Sunday’s incident has set it back once again, with the destruction of 12 coaches.

WATCH: Metrorail's woes continue as 2 more trains burn at Cape Town Station

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

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