June 22, 2010 / 8:57 AM / 10 years ago

Sixty killed in Congo Republic train crash

BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) - A train derailed and plunged into a ravine in Congo Republic, killing about 60 people and injuring hundreds on a dangerous rail link in the oil-producing Central African state, officials said on Tuesday.

The accident occurred late on Monday night after the train left the coastal town of Pointe-Noire on the Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean (CFCO) line to the capital Brazzaville, a route that has seen at least two deadly accidents.

Some 60 bodies were recovered from the accident scene by midday Tuesday and about 450 people were being treated for injuries, according to an official at the Adolphe Cisse hospital in Pointe-Noire who asked not to be named.

The government said 48 bodies had been found overnight and the death toll was likely to rise.

“The number of dead is still provisional, because searches and operations to lift wagons which fell into a ravine are still ongoing,” said government spokesman Bienvenue Okiemy.

“In the light of the evidence on the ground, excess speed is the cause of the accident,” he said.

“Unfortunately the train took a corner that turned out to be fatal,” said a rail company source, who declined to be identified because he was unauthorized to speak publicly.

Four of the wagons careered into the ravine near the station of Yanga, around 60 km (40 miles) from Pointe-Noire, he said.

At least 50 people were killed on the same line in 2001, many of them burned to death, when two trains collided at Mvougounti around 75 km (45 miles) east of Pointe-Noire.

In 1991, about 100 people died when a passenger train slammed into a freight train, also at Mvougounti.

The lack of roads and the dysfunctional railway system between the main towns make travel difficult and contribute to the high cost of food and imported goods in the capital and throughout neighboring landlocked nations.

Chinese engineers started work late last year on a $500 million road linking the oil hub of Pointe-Noire with Brazzaville, a project that will involve crossing equatorial forests and steep mountains.

Congo, which has long exported millions of barrels of oil but remains mostly poor and suffers from poor infrastructure, is seeking to diversify its economy as oil reserves wind down.

Reporting by Christian Tsoumou; writing by Richard Valdmanis and Mark John; editing by Mark Heinrich

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