Thousands of Cameroonians have flocked to hospitals in the country’s two main cities on Sunday in search of corpses and survivors after an overloaded train derailed Friday, killing more than 70 people and injuring 600. Most of the victims are now receiving treatment in hospitals in the capital, Yaounde, and the port city of Douala, after rail lines were cleared and the injured were evacuated. The accident happened in Eseka, about 125 kilometers (75 miles) west of Yaounde, which doesn’t have adequate facilities and is difficult to access by road, because of landslides caused by heavy rains.
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Mustapha Abbo, 45, searched in Yaounde for his younger sister, whose husband survived the accident. “I have no information on the whereabouts of my sister’s corpse, so I decided to go from one mortuary to the other in search of her body,” he said. Rigobert Nlend, 42, and his mother Prudence mourned his brother at the Yaounde Military Hospital mortuary after first looking in Douala.
“A survivor who was travelling with my brother told me that no medical staff or rescue worker attended to him while he was trapped under the debris for 24 hours before he died. I strongly believe my brother’s life could have been saved if rescue workers arrived early enough,” he said. Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma said that security services were immediately mobilized to help the victims.
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But officials had to wait until Saturday for railway workers to remove the wreckage in order to evacuate the injured, officials said. While waiting, Eseka residents helped the few medical and rescue workers at the scene. Bad roads made it difficult to transport the victims to bigger hospitals by bus. Cameroon President Paul Biya extended a message of condolence to the bereaved families and declared Monday, Oct. 24 a national day of mourning.