RAIL CRASH: Death Toll From Cameroon Railway Crash Hits 73
Eseka – The death toll has risen to 73 after a train derailed and crashed Friday outside Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé. Hundreds more were injured.The Ndjock Luk family mourns the death of their 54-year-old mother near the train station in Eseka. She was travelling for a funeral service in Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala, when the train derailed and she died.
Their daughter, Patience Ananga, who was travelling alongside the family of seven, says she was rushed to the hospital.
“My stomach is paining. My head is paining,” she said. “I was rushed to the hospital where I was asked questions and they injected me and asked me to go and see the doctor and she sent me to go and do some tests. I did the tests but the results are not yet out”
Twenty-one-year-old Alvine Batamo was rushed to the psychiatric unit of the Eseka hospital where doctors said her situation was stable. She told VOA what she remembers about the accident.
She says when the train started crashing, she had an impression she was flying for one corner of the rail car to another like a bird. She says almost everyone was shouting the name of Jesus and crying for help.
Businessman Atanga Martin says while in the train he observed that the brake system may have been faulty.
He says they noticed that the brake system on the train was faulty because of the strong smell emanating from the locomotive. He says although they were worried because the train was in stop speed, they had no one to complain to until they found themselves in bushes near the rail line. There has been no official cause given for the wreck.
Cameroon’s minister of transport, Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o, alongside six other government ministers, visited the accident site. Mebe Ngo’o says 53 people died and 600 were wounded, yet the hospital has only a capacity of 60 beds. He says they have ordered the victims to be transported from the Eseka hospital, which is overwhelmed.
He says he is calling on everyone to double efforts to save the lives of the injured and calling on railway authorities to help them evacuate patients and save lives.
The train crashed between Yaounde and Douala while carrying about 1,300 passengers. It normally carries 600 but the number of their clients increased when some culverts on the only route linking Yaounde and Douala sank as a result of a land slide following heavy rains.
Railway officials said they increased the number of cars from 8 to 18 to cope with the huge number of customers, but the 30-year-old rail line apparently could not carry the heavy load.
Cameroon government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma says the government has ordered investigations to probe the circumstances that led to the accident.
He says President Paul Biya is extending a message of condolence to the bereaved families and encouraging the wounded during this very difficult moment Cameroon is facing. He says the president has asked the government to assist all victims with whatever they need for their treatment. He says investigations have been opened to determine the causes of the accident.
It is feared the death toll may increase. Rescue workers are still digging through the rubble in search of survivors and bodies.