As Cameroon marked a national day of mourning on Monday, the death toll following Friday’s CamRail train derailment rose to at least 80 people. Transport Minister Edgar Mebe’Ngo’o told local media outlets that the fatalities are expected to rise again, given critical injuries in some of the 600-plus people who were wounded and the fact that not all of the missing may yet have been recovered.
The AFP reports that rescue operations for the Train 152 passengers ended Sunday, with Cameroon’s rail and emergency staffs shifting to recovery mode.
The accident near Eseka, about 120 kilometers from the capital Yaounde, happened as cars came loose from the train and were strewn across the tracks, leaving the passengers flung into a nearby ravine and the surrounding landscape or crushed under the carriage cars. The overcrowded train had a total of 20 cars, some of them added to the normal route because the main Douala-Yaoundé road was impassable.
The road reopened after temporary repairs were made at the collapse site by using a cargo shipping container that was placed beneath the surface. The repair itself also prompted questions about the safety of Cameroon’s busiest highway.
Cameroon President Paul Biya, returning to the country on Sunday, promised a full inquiry into the train disaster during emotional remarks delivered on his arrival. Meanwhile, opposition party leaders accused the government of incompetence and demanded more help for injured victims and surviving families.
The magnitude of the train catastrophe has overwhelmed resources, as families desperately try to find friends and loved ones at Laquintini Hospital and other facilities. Appeals for blood donations, as well as assistance with food, water and other humanitarian needs, continued throughout the day.
Image: Cameroon President Paul Biya