Yaoundé (AFP): At least 60 were killed when a packed passenger train derailed between Cameroon’s two main cities, a hospital source in the capital Yaounde said Saturday, giving a new toll the day after the accident.
Almost 600 people were injured when the train, travelling from Yaounde to the economic hub of Douala, came off the rails near the central city of Eseka at around midday Friday.
“We have received between 60 and 70 bodies at the station this morning,” a railway official who asked not to be identified told AFP in Yaounde on Saturday.
The train was crammed with people because a collapsed bridge had made travelling the same route by road impossible.
“Some of the wounded are arriving unconscious. We think the death toll will rise,” said the railway official, adding that the injured had been taken to various hospitals in the capital.
Passengers’ relatives thronged the city’s main hospital to look for their loved ones.
At the hospital’s morgue “there are 28 unidentified bodies. The identified bodies are at another morgue,” said a policeman on duty there.
The first person allowed into the morgue, a woman, emerged in tears.
“She recognised the body of her sister,” explained one of the people with her.
As she waited her turn to enter, another woman, Fadimatou, said, “We have had no news from our sister since yesterday. We don’t know whether she is alive.
“Her phone was ringing yesterday but it wasn’t since this morning. Her husband is looking for her in Douala.”
Dan Njoya said he had come to the morgue “to see if the body of my four-month-old baby is here.”
Most of those injured in the accident were taken to hospitals in Douala, medical sources said.
On Friday evening, the transport minister said 55 people were known to have died and 575 were injured in the accident.
State-run television reported that many of the injured were in a critical condition and that the cause of the accident had not been discovered.
– Stations cordoned off –
Also Friday, rail operator Camrail, a subsidiary of French investment group Bollore, said it had deployed “intervention and security teams” to the site of the accident.
Emergency services were sent from Douala to reinforce teams closer to the scene, while firefighters were coming from Eseka, Doula regional governor Dieudonne Ivaha Diboua said.
Police had cordoned off the railway stations in both cities on Saturday.
The road bridge collapsed on Thursday night as a result of heavy rain, which also hindered the deployment of rescue services to the scene of the accident.
The road is one of the busiest in the country and one of the main commercial routes in central Africa, carrying trade towards landlocked Chad and the Central African Republic.
Many travellers were still stuck on either side of the collapsed bridge late Friday, Martial Missimikim of road safety NGO Securoute told AFP.