At least 57 people have been killed after a passenger train sped off the rails in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The newly purchased locomotive flew off the rails on Tuesday as it went around a bend in a swampy area in the southeast of the country, causing 15 of the train’s 19 cars to overturn, a government spokesman said.
The official death toll was first given as 37 people, but government spokesman Lambert Mende had warned it was likely to rise, and later gave an updated toll of 57.
Other sources put the figure even higher.
A journalist at the scene said a local official had given a toll of about 60 dead and 86 wounded, while local human rights activist Timothee Mbuya said that “so far at least 100 bodies have been taken from the train and buried, because there’s no morgue”.
The train was travelling north from the town of Kamina in the southern province of Katanga to Mwene-Ditu in the diamond-mining province of Kasai-Oriental.
Witnesses said it was carrying hundreds of passengers both in and on its cars, many of whom had paid an illegal reduced fare to ride the train without a proper ticket.
“People are trapped and they need a 100-tonne crane to lift the cars, but the area is inaccessible,” the journalist said.
“The Mwyi river runs between the tracks and the road, and it’s a swampy zone that can only be accessed on foot.”
He said an army unit had been sent to help extract both the wounded and the dead from the wreckage.
Mende said it appeared that engine failure had caused the train to speed out of control, but added that an investigation was under way into the exact reason for the crash.