A rail disaster in Congo-Brazzaville killed at least 60 people and injured hundreds on Tuesday, as a senior official warned that many more victims may still be pulled from the wrecked carriages.
Survivor Lucien Koko, speaking from hospital, said the train veered off the tracks after hurtling into a bend at full speed in the early hours of Tuesday, as it travelled between Brazzaville and the southern city of Pointe-Noire.
“At a bend that the driver went into at full speed, all six carriages where the passengers were derailed. We were thrown by the impact,” he told AFP.
“Many people remain trapped. I can talk because I have a wound on my forearm. Friends who were with me are gravely wounded,” added the 37-year-old.
Sixty bodies have been taken to the morgue in Pointe Noire, according to a member of a crisis cell dealing with the accident. A further 280 people were injured including 80 seriously, said a city official.
But Raoul Essou, deputy head of the Chemin de fer Congo-ocean (CFCO) rail firm, warned the final death toll was expected to rise.
“The toll we are currently giving is temporary,” he told AFP by telephone from the crash scene, about 60km from Pointe Noire, where rescuers were working to clear carriages from the tracks.
“The final toll will be very heavy,” he warned. “Eight of the train’s 10 carriages were thrown. The tracks are blocked over 100 metres,” he added.
Stations fill with relatives
Relatives of the dead and injured filled railway stations at Pointe Noire and Dolisie anxious for news of their loved ones, witnesses in the cities said.
High-ranking government and military officials travelled to the area Tuesday, as CFCO managing director Joseph Sauveur El Bez said that everything possible was being done to help the victims.
Costaud Mackosso, head of protocol at the transport ministry said Transport Minister Isidore Mvouba and top military officials would visit the crash scene before issuing a public statement.
The 510-kilometre CFCO line is the main link between the capital and Pointe Noire on the Atlantic.
Mainly following the Congo River, it was constructed between 1921 and 1934 during French colonial rule and thousands of Africans are said to have died building it.
In September 1991, a collision on the same line left 100 dead and 300 injured in the country’s worst ever rail disaster.
Tuesday’s crash is Congo-Brazzaville’s second major transport accident in the space of a few days after 11 people, including the Australian mining tycoon Ken Talbot, died in a plane crash in Congo’s thick jungle on Saturday.
Authorities found the plane’s wreckage on Monday near Yangadou, a small mining town where the flight had been due to land.
Six Australians, two Britons, two French and a US national were on the twin turboprop plane chartered by the Perth-based Sundance Resources company headed by Talbot.