A Cameroon train has derailed on a busy route, killing at least 55 and injuring 575 people. The train was headed to the country's commercial city of Douala from the capital, Yaoundé.
In a communiqué read on state television, the government reported that 14 people remained trapped in the wreckage of the train that derailed on Friday.
The 17-carriage passenger train was packed with passengers, partially due to a recent motorway bridge collapse, which prompted people to make the journey to Douala by railway instead.
A railway employee said that the company had added eight additional cars to the normally nine-wagon composition to accommodate the demand, according to a Reuters journalist on the train.
Rail officials told state radio that the train had been carrying 1,300 people instead of its usual 600.
The train crashed near the Eseka station, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of the capital, Yaoundé. It was en route to the country's second city, the commercial capital Douala, according to the railway company Camrail, which is a subsidiary of French investment group Bollore. The accident occurred at about 11 a.m. local time (1000 UTC) on Friday.
"There was a loud noise. I looked back and the wagons behind us left the rails and started rolling over and over. There was a lot of smoke," according to the Reuters journalist travelling in a wagon near the front of the train.
Passengers from the scene report seeing dozens of bodies, although it was unclear whether all of them were deceased.
"Rescue workers arrived and they are pulling bodies from the wagon," passenger Rachelle Paden said. "I've already counted around 40 bodies they've removed, but I cannot confirm if they are dead or wounded."
The government has dispatched a delegation to the site, according to Transport Minister Mebe Ngo'o.
"What is certain is that there is a lot of damage, both human and material, due to the train derailment. But we cannot yet give a toll," he said.
Bollore is generally viewed as a reliable operator, but there was another major incident last month when part of a bridge along a line it controls in Ivory Coast collapsed under a freight train.
rs, dj/msh, jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)