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Rescuers work to assist victims of deadly Cameroon rail accident
October 22, 2016 / 11:58 AM / 10 months ago

Rescuers work to assist victims of deadly Cameroon rail accident

* At least 55 killed in accident, hundreds wounded

* Witnesses said rail workers had added extra wagons

* Rail line is key link between Cameroon's largest cities

By Sylvain Andzongo

DOUALA, Cameroon, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Rescue workers in Cameroon worked overnight to bring to hospital wounded victims of a passenger train crash that killed at least 55 people as work began to clear wreckage from the vital rail line, the railway company said on Saturday.

The Central African nation's government said late on Friday that at least 575 people were injured in the accident, which occurred around 11 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) near the town of Eseka, around 120 km (75 miles) west of the capital, Yaounde. Fourteen people had remained trapped in the wreckage.

The figures were provisional, however, and are expected to rise.

The packed Camrail train, operated by French industrial group Bollore, had been travelling from Yaounde to the port city of Douala when it derailed, causing several carriages to overturn.

"The train with wounded and the bodies of victims has arrived at Yaounde station in the presence of government and Camrail officials," Camrail posted on its official Facebook page early on Saturday.

"Busses drove passengers who escaped yesterday's incident to Douala."

Work began during the night to remove the derailed wagons from the line - one of the main transportation routes for goods and passengers between the coast and the interior.

Camrail has given no indication of what might have caused the accident. However, witnesses, including a Reuters reporter travelling on the train, said rail workers had added extra carriages to accommodate extra passengers before its departure.

A Bollore spokeswoman said the company would communicate on the accident in coordination with Cameroonian government authorities, but added that the immediate focus was on rescue operations.

A Bollore official based in the region, who was not authorised to speak with the press and asked not to be named, said the company was cooperating with authorities examining the crash.

"Camrail has made the train's conductor and its mechanic available to the judicial police, because in these kinds of circumstances that is the procedure. That will allow for an understanding of what happened," the official said.

He added that traffic along the Yaounde to Douala line, which was halted following the crash, was expected to resume soon and engineers were at the site of the accident to evaluate the damage.

The collapse of a section of the main highway between Yaounde and Douala earlier on Friday had blocked hundreds of vehicles on the road and prompted increased numbers of passengers to undertake the journey by rail.

The two incidents, which occurred on the same day, have now effectively cut the main transportation axis in the country of over 22 million.

Writing by Joe Bavier Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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