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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Yaoundé: Two Trains derail in as many days- 11 dead, 275 injured

Yaounde:Two Trains derail in as many days- 11 dead, 275 injured
Two trains have derailed in less than 24 hours in Yaoundé, killing some 11 people and injuring at least 275 overall.

The first crash occurred Friday at about 10 a.m. involving a fuel-carrying train that derailed causing a 3hour long blaze at Obobogo, in Yaoundé. The fuel wagons transporting gasoil was guarded by 5 security men. One of them was charred in the blaze, and another died after getting to hospital, early Saturday. Some 3 persons in the area were taken to hospital for second degree burns and suffocation.
Thick plumes of black smoke wafted over the capital city for hours.

The second derailment took place shortly before 7a.m. on Saturday. It was a passenger train 192 travelling from Ngaoundere to Douala via Yaounde, with about 1.000 persons on board. The train derailed at around Etoudi, in the area known as Mballa 3, Abattoir. At least 9 deaths have been reported, and some 275 persons.

In the first derailment, eye-witness Ndgetchou Odile said “I saw the rail got broken at 7a.m. after the first cargo train crossed here, I called the attention of Eric the rail track guard.”
It is believed old rotting wooden railroad ties may have caused Friday’s derailment. It was initially feared scores of homes lining the railway would be charred, but the gasoil that flowed out of the tanks went into a nearby stream, averting another catastrophe, similar to the Nsam 1998 catastrophe. Fire-fighters fought the flames for hours.

Persons travelling on the second train, carrying the board chairman of the national railway company CAMRAIL, the Senior Divisional Officer of Yaounde, and other dignitaries, say the shock of the wheel came off and caused the train to derail.

Eye-witnesses say a train guard saved most of the first-class wagons by separating the rest of the train from the derailing part.

The minister of Communications Issa Tchiroma has waved off the likelihood of sabotage, explaining that the train’s locomotive did not derail in both cases, but the middle of the train. “In case of sabotage, even the locomotive will be derailed.” He observed.

The minister also cancelled the claims that overcrowding in the train may have been at the origin of the second train, however conceding that this could worsen the death toll.

The Cameroon Railway Corporation, Camrail, is run by the French business consortium Group Bollore, and has for long now had outdated rails and coaches.

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