BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo — Four train cars full of passengers fell into a ravine in the Republic of Congo after a derailment caused by excessive speed, leaving at least 48 people dead and more than 400 others hurt, top government officials said yesterday.
The government also called for three days of national mourning in a statement issued after a meeting of top officials summoned by President Denis Sassou-Nguesso. Bienvenu Okiemy, government spokesman, also said the government will pay for the victims’ funerals.
“According to the facts on the ground, excess speed is the main cause of this train accident,’’ Okiemy said.
Okiemy said the death toll from Monday night’s crash could still rise; 15 people were in critical condition and search teams could still find bodies in train cars at the bottom of the ravine. He said 405 people were known to have been injured.
Earlier yesterday, Health Minister Georges Moyen said 49 people were killed in the crash, following estimates from railway officials that at least 60 people were killed.
Jean Miche Ibinda, spokesman for the rail company, said the train was leaving the coastal town of Pointe-Noire and was headed to the capital, Brazzaville, when it derailed. Army and Red Cross officials rushed to the scene of the accident, he said.
The CFCO rail line that runs for about 300 miles through the country has had difficulties in recent years with its old trains and lines. In a statement, government officials noted that Monday’s crash was the third the train company had experienced in 19 years.