About 30 people riding on a fuel train in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo were killed and more than two dozen injured when a train derailed then caught fire, a provincial governor said on Monday.
The freight train was traveling from the southern copper and cobalt mining hub of Lubumbashi to Luena, in Lualaba province, on Sunday when it left the tracks and tumbled into a ravine near the town of Buyofwe.
“There’s major damage because the tanker cars caught fire,” Lualaba’s governor Richard Muyej told Reuters. “Around 30 dead and 26 wounded were transferred to the hospital in Lubudi, 25 km from the scene of the accident.”
Work was underway continuing to search for any survivors in the wreckage.
The train, in which the victims were traveling illegally, was transporting 13 oil tankers and derailed while climbing a slope near the station of Lubudi. It fell into a ravine and the tankers caught fire, UN's radio Okapi said. Eleven of the train’s 13 cars caught fire following the derailment.
"It's a freight train that derailed and it wasn't supposed to be carrying passengers. If there were people on board, we consider them to be illegal travelers," said Sylvestre Ilunga Ilukamba, a senior official from the national railway company, the SNCC.
Officials from the SNCC were investigating the cause of the crash, which was not immediately known.
Rail accidents are relatively common in Congo due to aging, poorly maintained infrastructure and lax enforcement of safety standards.
Katanga has witnessed several deadly train accidents. In 2014, a freight train derailed killing 74 people and injured 163, according to officials but the Red Cross said up to 200 corpses had been buried.
The national news agency a month later spoke of 136 deaths.
Another train accident in July 1987 near the Zambian border killed 150 people after crashing into a truck.