Congo train crash 'death toll rising - 76 killed'


More than 75 people have been killed in a train crash in the south of Congo-Brazzaville, officials have said.

The head of the rail operator, Chemin de Fer Congo-Ocean (CFCO), said it occurred on Monday night about 60km (37 miles) from the city of Pointe-Noire.

The train derailed as it went round a corner in a remote area between Bilinga and Tchitondi, throwing four carriages into a ravine.

Officials say the death toll is likely to rise as rescue operations continue.

Image caption,
The wounded are being taken to hospital in Pointe-Noire

"According to the facts on the ground, excess speed is the main cause of this train accident," AP news agency quotes government spokesman Bienvenu Okiemy as saying.

Mr Okiemy siad that three days of national mourning will start on Saturday and the government would pay for the victims' funerals.

He said operations to lift wagons which fell into a ravine were still ongoing.

CFCO director-general Sauveur Joseph El Bez told AFP news agency the death toll was likely to rise as "the train was overloaded".

"There were too many passengers," he said.

Poorly maintained

The dead and wounded have been taken to hospitals and morgues in Pointe-Noire.

"This morning, the new toll is 76 dead. The bodies are all at the morgue in Pointe-Noire," an unnamed official from the crisis unit in Pointe-Noire told AFP on Wednesday.

The BBC's Will Ross says the 500km (310 miles) railway line was built during the 1920s and 1930s using forced labour, when France was the colonial power. Thousands died during the project.

It has since been poorly maintained, our correspondent says.

The whole line between the capital Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire was closed down in the late 1990s during the country's civil war. There have been at least two serious accidents since it re-opened.

This is the second accident in the country in recent days. A plane carrying mostly Australian mining executives crashed over the weekend, killing all 11 passengers on board.

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