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Congo train disaster kills 60, injures hundreds

world Updated: Jun 22, 2010 23:03 IST

At least 60 people died and hundreds were injured in a rail disaster in Congo-Brazzaville, officials said today, as a survivor said carriages derailed when the train took a bend at speed.

"At a bend that the driver went into at full speed, all six carriages where the passengers were derailed. We were thrown by the impact," said survivor Lucien Koko, 37, speaking from hospital.

"Many people remain trapped. I am talking because I have a wound on my forearm. Friends who were with me are gravely wounded," he added.

A member of the crisis cell dealing with the accident said there were "60 bodies in the morgue" in the southern city of Pointe Noire.

A further 280 people were injured including 80 seriously, said a city administration official.

The accident happened in the early hours of Tuesday about 60 kilometres (38 miles) from Pointe Noire, said Joseph Sauveur El Bez, managing director of the Chemin de fer Congo-ocean (CFCO) company.

Relatives of the dead and injured filled the railway stations at Pointe Noire and Dolisie anxious for news of their loved ones, witnesses in the cities said.

"There was a grave train accident during the night," El Bez told AFP earlier. "There are dozens of victims and injured," adding that everything possible was being done to help the victims.

High-ranking government and military officials travelled to the area on Tuesday.

"The transport minister (Isidore Mvouba) and the military high command had a meeting today. They examined the rail accident and the air accident (a crash that killed 11 people on Saturday)," said Costaud Mackosso, head of protocol at the transport ministry.

They would visit the area and "take stock of the scene of the accident," he said. "On their return they will make a public statement."

The 510-kilometre (315-mile) CFCO line is the main link between the capital Brazzaville and Pointe Noire on the Atlantic, mainly following the Congo River.

It was built between 1921 and 1934 during French colonial rule and thousands of Africans are said to have died making the railway.

In September 1991, a collision on the same line left 100 dead and 300 wounded in the country's worst ever rail disaster.

It is the second major transport disaster in the past few days in the country after 11 people, including colourful Australian mining tycoon Ken Talbot, died in a plane crash in Congo's thick jungle on Saturday.

Authorities from Congo-Brazzaville found the plane's wreckage on Monday near Yangadou, a small mining town where the flight had been due to to land.

Six Australians, two Britons, two French and a US national were on the twin turboprop plane chartered by the Perth-based Sundance Resources company headed by Talbot.