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Disasters

Dozens die as 'speeding' DRC train derails

Dozens of people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after an overloaded goods and passenger train careered off the tracks. The incident is one of several in recent years on the neglected network.

The goods and passenger train was on its way from Kamina to Mwene-Ditu in the south of DRC, when it derailed from a bridge in Katanga province.

The train was said to have been traveling around a bend in a swampy area of country when it came off the line.

"It felt as if the engine started racing," a survivor was quoted as saying in a local report. "The engine and a wagon fell down."

At least 37 people were initially reported dead, according to witnesses and local officials. However, Dikanga Kazadi, the interior minister of Katanga province, gave a provisional toll of 56 dead and 69 injured. He added that the death toll was expected to rise.

"Evidently the train was going too fast, the driver came to a curve and had to break suddenly leading to the accident," said Kazadi.

Witnesses said the train had been carrying hundreds of passengers, both inside and on top of its carriages. An army unit and a 100-metric-ton crane were reportedly deployed at the scene as rescuers tried to gain access and lift the carriages.

The DRC's rail system was initially built by Belgium and used to transport the former colony's ivory and rubber reserves. With only scant investment since 1960, the rail system has been undergoing a refurbishment program paid for by the World Bank.

In 2007, more than 100 died in an accident involving people travelling on a goods train in the province of Kasai Occidental. In September 2012, four were killed in an accident north of the DRC's second-largest city, Lubumbashi.

rc/msh (AFP, AP, dpa,Reuters)