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UN Mission Sends More Supplies to Crash Victims in DRC

VOA News - August 3, 2007

Clottey Interview With Alexandre Essome audio clip
Listen to Clottey Interview With Alexandre Essome audio clip

The United Nations Mission In the Democratic Republic of Congo says it will be sending more doctors and medical supplies to central Congo where about 100 people are reportedly feared dead following a train derailment. The crash occurred in Kananga Wednesday in the remote part of the country after seven carriages of the train reportedly derailed. Sources say the train's locomotive stopped responding to controls as it traveled between the cities of Ilebo and Kananga, leaving the conductor without a way to brake.

Alexandre Essome is the spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping force, which organized the rescue attempt. He shares with reporter peter Clottey the latest developments about the Congo derailment. 

"We just got back from the area of Kakenge, about 170 kilometers north of Kananga. Actually, our understanding is that the train was coming from Ilebo, another city in the northern part of Kananga ?eight wagons derailed; they fell on people and we were able to evaluate that there are about 68 eight people dead, and 120 more injured that we were able to assist. We took them to the local hospital; we left local doctors, national doctors and World health Organization doctors over there who are continuing to assist them," Essome said.

He said the UN mission would be sending more help to the accident victims.

"During the day, today we will be going there, and we would be bringing additional assistance, so that we can help those we can help at this stage," he said.

Essome said the government has announced its preparedness to send more help to the crash victims.

"My understanding is the government is sending a team of people down there, ministers, doctors, government people and medication to assist as well. So, help is coming from all sides to provide to those people and lets hope for the best for those who remain under the train. Our assessment on the ground is that those people who are under those wagons, at the present stage we don't believe that they are still alive," Essome pointed out.

He said urgent care is needed for the accident victims.

"The most pressing thing that we need to do is to hasten enough medication. Additionally, we need to take in heavy lifting equipment, so that we can lift those wagons that are laying on people, and we can see if there are some people who are still alive, trapped in there and they cannot move, or we can remove the bodies that are still underneath those wagons.  Right now we cannot tell the exact number of people who are under those wagons, until we are able to lift them," he said.

Essome said the number of victims has overwhelmed the small local hospital.

"First, there is only one local hospital in the area, what you call Katenge General Reference hospital. And this hospital has about 22 beds, and we have more than 100 people who are injured. You can understand the dilemma the hospital is going through right now. They have to accommodate 120 people with 22 beds. So it's a very difficult situation," Essome noted.

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