A fatal road accident in Swaziland has killed 38 girls and seriously injured 20 others who were on their way to a traditional ceremony where King Mswati III can choose a new wife, pro-democracy activists reported.
The accident happened on Friday night when their open truck smashed into a car on the road between the tiny kingdom’s two main cities, Mbabane and Manzini, en route to the traditional Reed Dance.
“A total of 38 young girls have been pronounced dead, with more than 20 others seriously injured,” Swaziland Solidarity Network spokesman Lucky Lukhele said.
“The girls were in an open truck which hit a sedan car stopped on the road,” Mr Lukhele concluded.
Their demises call for a cancellation of Monday’s annual event in which tens of thousands of topless teenage virgins dance for King Mswati.
“The girls are packed into these trucks, standing room only, like cattle. This was an accident that was waiting to happen for a long time,” another eyewitness reported.
A second fully-loaded truck slammed into the first lorry from the rear on a decline from a highway bridge in Matsapha, halfway between Manzini and Mswati’s palace at Lozitha.
“According to information gathered, so serious was the accident that the tarmac was awash with blood, and critically injured imbali [maidens] were littered all over the place,” the Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Saturday.
The newspaper hinted at casualties but provided no death figure, while the Times of Swaziland reported seven deaths. On Saturday at least 38 fatalities were reported but without official confirmation.