‘At least 53 killed’ after train derails in Cameroon

Almost 300 injured after train overturned on line between Yaounde and Douala

Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o said the figures represented a provisional toll from the incident, which occurred near the train station in the town of Eseka, about 120km (75 miles) west of Yaounde. Image: Google Maps

Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o said the figures represented a provisional toll from the incident, which occurred near the train station in the town of Eseka, about 120km (75 miles) west of Yaounde. Image: Google Maps

 

Fifty-three people were killed and nearly 300 injured on Friday when a packed passenger train travelling between Cameroon’s two largest cities derailed and overturned, the transportation minister said.

Speaking on state radio, Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o said the figures represented a provisional toll from the incident, which occurred near the train station in the town of Eseka, about 120km (75 miles) west of Yaounde.

Camrail, which is operated by France’s Bollore Railways, confirmed on its Facebook page that an accident had occurred. Passengers put the time of the accident at around 11am.

“There was a loud noise. I looked back and the wagons behind us left the rails and started rolling over and over. There was a lot of smoke,” said a Reuters journalist travelling in a wagon near the front of the train.

He said that, before its departure from Yaounde, a railway employee said eight additional wagons had been added to the normally nine-wagon train to accommodate extra passengers, though it was unclear if that played a role in the accident.

The collapse of a bridge along the main highway between the capital and Douala had prompted increased numbers of passengers to undertake the journey by rail.

Joel Bineli, a passenger, told Reuters he saw the dismembered bodies of three fellow passengers on the tracks at the accident site. Social media users posted photographs purported to have been taken at the scene of the accident which showed several wagons overturned on a slope beside the rail line.

“Rescue workers arrived and they are pulling bodies from the wagon. I’ve already counted around 40 bodies they’ve removed, but I cannot confirm if they are dead or wounded,” said Rachelle Paden, another passenger.

Camrail said it had sent teams to the site but declined to give any further information on the incident. A Bollore spokesman would only confirm that an accident had occurred.

Many rail lines in west and central Africa have a reputation for poor maintenance and failing to respect safety norms. Derailments are relatively common.

Though Bollore is generally viewed as a reliable operator, it experienced another major incident last month when part of a bridge along a line it controls in Ivory Coast collapsed under a freight train.