At least 55 people were killed and over 500 other were injured when on Friday, an overloaded train derailed along the route that links Cameroon’s two major cities. The injured couldn’t be evacuated until rail travel is re-established. Many people remained trapped under the wreckage and the death toll may rise.
Issa Tchiroma, government spokesman said, “It has been a sad day in Cameroon. The president has extended his message of condolence to the families that lost their loved ones and asked me to tell all of you that he is concerned about your well-being and quick recovery.”
The Camrail inter-city train was traveling from the capital, Yaounde, to the economic hub Douala. The accident occurred around 11 am local time (1000 GMT) near the train station in Eseka town, 120 km west of the capital. The accident came as heavy rains have caused landslides along roads in the region. A portion of the road linking the capital Yaounde to Douala had collapsed, so the 30-year-old rail lines were overtaxed.
Transport minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o said, “The train traveling from the capital Yaounde to the economic hub Douala, was crammed with people due to road traffic disruption between the two cities and came off the tracks just before reaching the central city of Eseka.”
Camrail said in a post on its official Facebook page it had sent teams to the site and the injured were being transported to a local hospital. Others were driven to Douala. It expressed its condolence to victims’ families.
Health Minister Andre Mama Fouda, who flew to the scene with other officials, called on medical staff from neighboring towns to come and help and said that the government would take care of the injured.
The road is one of the busiest road in the country and one of the main commercial routes in central America, carrying trade towards landlocked Chad and the Central African Republic.
Many rail lines in Central and West Africa have a reputation of poor maintenance and failing to respect safety norms. Derailments are relatively common.
Though Bollore is generally viewed as a reliable operator, last month it experienced another major incident when a part of a bridge along a line it controls in Ivory Coast collapsed under the weight of freight train.