Death toll in Congo rail disaster rises

Seventy-six people were killed in Monday’s rail disaster in Yanga, Congo, according to the latest toll, a member of the crisis unit in Pointe Noire told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.

“This morning [Wednesday], the new toll is 76 dead. The bodies are all at the morgue in Pointe-Noire,” the official said.

The Congo government on Tuesday issued a provisional toll of 48 dead and more than 400 injured in the accident, and said the search for more bodies would continue.

Raoul Essou, the deputy head of the Chemin de fer Congo-ocean (CFCO) railway company on Tuesday emphasised that there could be no exhaustive death toll until all the carriages had been cleared.

The train derailed about 60km from the southern city of Pointe-Noire.

Several witnesses said it appeared to be travelling too fast.

The head of CFCO Joseph Sauveur El Bez acknowledged that the high death toll was “because the train was overloaded. There were too many passengers.”

The CFCO chief also put down the crash to driver error. “The train was fine. The track was in good condition,” he said.

The 510km CFCO line is the main link between the capital, Brazzaville, 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. — Sapa-AFP

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