22, October 2016
The Intercity train service 152 left the nation’s capital at 11:15 am for Douala the economic metropolis. The technical service of Camrail- a subsidiary of the Bolloré Transport & Logistics Group operating the rail sector in Cameroon did not check the front wheels of the locomotive to see if they had the ability to pull a surplus of 8 additional coaches which were added hastily after the disaster on the Douala- Yaoundé highway that made transportation by road impossible.
The brakes of the train were checked before the 8 wagons were added. A rail technician sounded a note of caution and reportedly opposed the idea of additional coaches. A Camrail carrier with 88 seats and 20 standing places was now code named Intercity service with 8 new coaches and on that Good Friday, had 1350 passengers on board.
The tragedy happened around 11:45 am at Eseka- a small town located some 120km from Yaoundé. Camrail was quick to set up a crisis unit led by its senior management and it mobilized rescue teams. Three cabinet ministers: Transport, Public Health and Territorial Administration arrived the scene by helicopter and claimed they were sent by the President of the Republic, who is on holiday with his wife and kids in a five star hotel in Geneva for 35 days now.
Minister Edgar Alain Mebo Ngoo, the Minister of Transport attempted to score some political points for himself in order to buttress his case of becoming Cameroon’s next head of state. He announced earlier that no train had derailed and after some 55 minutes, Edgar Alain again came back on the airwaves of the state radio and television to provide a fictitious death toll.
70 people died and 600 were injured. The bodies of our departed citizens were taken to mortuaries in Edea, Douala, Eseka and Pouma. Our cream of reporters covering this story have all opined that the toll is expected to rise, given the many serious injuries recorded and the several passengers who are still trapped in the carriages that fell apart. The bodies of 14 passengers are still inside some of the wagons in the ravines. The government has ordered special equipment from the military headquarters to help pulled out the coaches.
Some big men in Yaounde call the ministers have announced the opening of a judicial inquiry to establish what caused the accident. The independent media has been barred from the scene and no one is allowed to take photos. Some reliable sources including travellers have stated that more than a hundred were killed in the incident. However, President Biya in a condolence message to the bereaved families agreed with our intelligence officers that 70 people have died as a result of the derailment.
By Sama Ernest, Rita Akana and Eyong Johnson