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Death Toll Reaches 76 in Congo Train Accident

People look at pictures of injured victims in front of the Loandjili hospital in Pointe-Noire, 22 Jun 2010

The official death toll stands at 76 after a train accident Monday in the Republic of Congo.

The train was en route to the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, when it derailed and plunged into a ravine near the southern coastal city of Pointe-Noire.

Jean-Pierre was on the train. He says we arrived at a downhill slope near Yanga, and the conductor began to brake. He says a car detached and as the train stopped, a boy jumped out to see what happened and saw that cars were on the ground. Of the train's eight passenger cars, Jean Pierre says only two remained standing. He says three cargo cars were also detached.

Congolese officials now say as many as 400 people were injured.

Jean-Pierre says he could not say how many were injured. He says people were bleeding and there were people trapped under the cars. He says he was able to get out of his car unharmed, but he thinks the train was going too fast.

The government said in a statement Tuesday the accident was caused by excessive speed as the train traveled around a bend.

There have been at least two other deadly accidents along the same train route. In 2001, two trains collided, killing 50 people. In 1991, 100 people died when a passenger train slammed into a freight train in Congo's worst rail accident.

This is the second fatal transport accident in the Republic of Congo this week. On Monday, officials discovered the wreckage of a small plane in the Congolese jungle. All 11 people on board were dead, including the entire board of Australian mining company Sundance Resources.