Cameroon Ends Train Crash Rescue Search as Death Toll Reaches 79

  • 1,300 passengers on board train from capital Yaounde to Douala
  • President Paul Biya returns home after 38 days abroad

Cameroon said it ended a rescue operation to find more survivors of a passenger train crash which left at least 79 people dead and more than 600 others injured.

The train operated by Camrail, a unit of the French company Bollore SA, derailed 120 kilometers (75 miles) into a journey from the capital, Yaounde, to the port city Douala with more than 1,300 passengers on board. The route saw a surge in passenger numbers after a collapsed bridge blocked the motorway linking the two cities.

“All human remains trapped in the wreckage have been pulled out,” Jackson Kamgaing, commander of the national army’s engineering unit, said in an interview on Monday. “It will be useless to continue the search.”

The train that derailed on Oct. 21 had eight more wagons than usual added to it to cope with the high number of passengers, but all safety standards had been respected, the chairman of the board of Camrail, Hamadou Sali, told reporters Sunday.

More than half of the injured have been discharged from hospital, according to a statement by Public Health Minister Andre Mama broadcast on state radio. Cameroonians on Monday observed a national day of mourning, decreed by President Paul Biya, who returned to the country on Sunday after spending 38 days abroad.

“I have instructed the government to undertake an in-depth probe to establish the cause of the accident,” Biya told state television upon his arrival in Yaounde. “The state should foot the bills of all the injured.”

Camrail has operated in the central African nation since 1999, following the privatization
of the state-run railway company.

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