Congo rail disaster toll reaches 76, search continues

About 100 railway employees were working to lift eight overturned carriages.

Pointe-Noire: Railway staff worked on Wednesday to lift overturned train carriages in Congo-Brazzaville in a grim search for more bodies two days after an accident that killed at least 76 people.

Amid the stench of rotting bodies and of fish that was being transported on the train that derailed on Monday evening, about 100 railway employees cleared the way for a crane to lift eight overturned carriages, a report said.

Witnesses said the crowded train flew off the tracks after hurtling into a bend at full speed near Yanga, about 60 kilometres east of the southern coastal city of Pointe-Noire.

Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso travelled Pointe-Noire yesterday to meet some of those affected by the disaster as a crisis unit raised the death toll to 76, with up to 700 people reported wounded.

"This morning (Wednesday), the new toll is 76 dead. The bodies are all at the morgue in Pointe-Noire," a unit official said.

The government on Tuesday issued a provisional toll of 48 dead, with a final tally only possible after all the carriages have been cleared, and announced three days of national mourning starting on Friday.

Residents of Yanga, a village of 200-300 people, were among the first to reach the disaster and told of a terrible scene.

"First we heard what we thought was a big explosion," said Fabrice Malonga, 36. "I saw bodies: children, older people. The carriages were full."

"We took the wounded to the road to wait for help," he said.

"The evening of the accident, most of the young people of the village had blood on their clothes because they helped the wounded," said villager Dalet Ngoma, 28.

Some of the wounded left Point-Noire hospitals yesterday but about 160 people remained, the area`s public relations director, Simon Edika, said.


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