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An overloaded train derailed along the route that links Cameroon’s two major cities on Friday, killing at least 53 people and injuring more than 300, the government said. The injured could not be evacuated until rail travel is re-established, said government spokesman Issa Tchiroma, adding that the death toll is likely to rise. “It has been a sad day in Cameroon,” he said. “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.”
Some of the dead are still lying amid the overturned rail cars while others have been evacuated to the Eseka hospital mortuary. Volunteer rescue workers, family members and others at the scene gave first aid as those stranded and hurt cried for help in Eseka, where the trained derailed and damaged the rail lines about 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of the capital, Yaounde.
The train that derailed between Yaounde and the port city of Douala had been carrying 1,300 passengers instead of the usual 600, rail officials told state radio. 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, the rail officials said.
Eseka is hard to reach by road, and there was panic at the site of the crash where very few doctors and medical staff were available. 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.