YAOUNDE - Thousands of Cameroonians have been flooding hospitals in the country's political and economic capitals Yaounde and Douala in search of corpses and survivors after a train crash that left more than 70 people dead and 600 injured. The overloaded train was carrying about 1,300 passengers. It normally carries 600.
Forty-five-year-old Mustapha Abbo arrived at the mortuary of the Yaounde general hospital in search of the body of his younger sister who died in last Friday's train crash in Esseka, 120 kilometers west of the capital, Yaounde. He said his sister's husband, who survived the crash, confirmed she died.
He said he has no information on the whereabouts of his sister's corpse, so he has decided to go from one mortuary to the other in search of her body. He said he is surprised to hear his friends saying the corpse was taken from the accident site by the military and the government is taking care of it, yet there is no one to say with certainty where her body can be found.
After the accident, the government of Cameroon announced it had removed 55 bodies from the wreckage and sent them to mortuaries in Douala and Yaounde, as Esseka's mortuary has room for only 15 bodies.
Sixty-two-year old Nlend Prudence mourns at the Yaounde Military hospital mortuary where she has found the corpse of her fourth son who died in the crash. His elder brother 42-year old teacher Nlend Rigobert said they found the dead body in Yaounde after searching for it in vain in Douala.
He said a survivor who was travelling with his brother told him that no medical staff or rescue worker attended to him while he was trapped under the rubble for 24 hours before he died. He said he strongly believes his brother's life could have been saved if rescue workers arrived early enough.
Lack of equipment, transportation
The government of Cameroon deployed medical staff and rescue workers to the accident site, but they lacked the necessary equipment. The Eseka hospital barely has 60 beds.
Bad roads made it difficult to transport the victims to bigger hospitals by bus, so officials waited for 20 hours for railway workers to remove the wreckage from rail lines before trains could evacuate the injured travelers.
While waiting, Eseka villagers could only give first aid and local traditional treatment to the wounded.
Most of the victims are now receiving treatment in hospitals in Yaounde and Douala, but without their family members who do not know where precisely they are.
Government spokes person Issa Tchiroma said delegations have been dispatched to assist the victims while waiting for their family members.
"An inter-ministerial delegation has been dispatched on the field with the necessary means from the minister of defense, the minister of minister of public health, of civil protection and other security services were immediately mobilized to provide assistance and rescue to the victims."
After the accident, Cameroon president Paul Biya extended a message of condolence to the bereaved families and asked the government to assist all victims with what ever they need for their treatment.
Cameroon president Paul Biya has declared Monday a day of national morning in honor of the dead.