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Cablegate: At Least 89 Dead and 100 Injured in Drc

VZCZCXRO2506
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0932/01 2181609
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061609Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6656
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000932

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

USTDA FOR PDAVIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELTN KCSY PGOV PHUM CASC CG
SUBJECT: AT LEAST 89 DEAD AND 100 INJURED IN DRC
TRAIN-WRECK


1. (U) Summary: A train wreck August 1 caused at least 89
fatalities and 100 casualties in the DRC's central Kasai
Occidental province. A delegation of ministers, journalists,
and aid workers traveled the following day to the crash site
where the local population called for improved railway
conditions. MONUC, OCHA, and other UN organizations are
providing humanitarian assistance. The threat of an
infectious diseases outbreak, however, remains a concern as
not all bodies have been removed from the wreckage. The
National Railway Company (SNCC) hoped to have the site
cleared by August 7. There are no reports of Americans
traveling on the train. End summary.

2. (SBU) A cargo train derailed August 1 at approximately
11:00 p.m. in the remote town of Kakenge, some 170 km north
of Kananga in Kasai Occidental, while en route from the Kasai
River port town of Ilebo. The train, intended primarily for
transporting cargo, was carrying corn to Kananga, in addition
to an unknown number of passengers, many of whom were
believed to have been on board without authorization or
proper seating. According to the National Railway Company
(SNCC), this is the second derailment to occur in this
section of track within the last three weeks.

3. (SBU) There are conflicting reports as to the number of
confirmed deaths. MONUC officials reported August 5 that
representatives of the provincial Crisis Committee, set up
after the accident, have identified 89 dead and over 100
injured. According to local medical sources, however, 92
deaths and 210 injured have been counted, including five
cases requiring MONUC evacuation to Kananga. The injured have
been taken to a local hospital 12 km from the crash site. No
Amcits are known to have been traveling on the train.
Regional officials said they expected the death toll to
increase once equipment arrives to move heavy wreckage,
allowing search teams to recover bodies trapped underneath.
Noting the proximity of the wreck site to the Lwembe River,
the only water source in the area, humanitarian organizations
are concerned about a possible outbreak of infectious
diseases if these bodies are not removed immediately.

4. (SBU) Two MONUC special flights transported a delegation
of medical staff and GDRC ministers with over two tons of
medications to the accident site on August 3. OCHA delivered
pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs by road that day, though the
vehicles transporting the material broke down and delayed
their arrival. A third MONUC flight arrived August 6, though
without additional beds and linens which had been ordered for
the hospital. To date, over ten tons of medications and
foodstuffs have been delivered to the area - eight tons from
the GDRC and two tons from the UN Coordinator for
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). CARITAS and the Red Cross are
providing ground support to the local community.

5. (U) A GDRC delegation from Kinshasa, led by Minister of
the Interior Denis Kalume Numbi, and including the Ministers
of Public Health, Transport and Communications, and
Humanitarian Affairs, visited the crash site along with
journalists and medical personnel August 2. Members were met
by calls on the GDRC to rehabilitate the rail system, which
in this area is over 70 years old. The delegation returned to
Kinshasa August 4 after air and ground tours of the wreckage
and mass grave sites.

6. (SBU) Local SNCC workers told Radio Okapi that "the
accident is certainly due to worn-out and defective
equipment." They claimed that the train picked up speed when
its brakes failed, causing seven of ten cars to overturn. In
response to this claim, Minister of Transportation Remy
Kuseyo Gatanga noted that, given the fact that this was
supposed to be a cargo train, travelers involved in the
accident were likely riding illegally, reflecting flaws in
the SNCC's check-in system. An official fact-finding mission
investigating the causes of the accident and organized by
MONUC continues.

7. (SBU) Kasai Occidental Governor Tresor Kapuko, told PolOff
August 4 he believed the accident was due to the poor
condition of the tracks themselves, which he claimed had not
been repaired "in years." A recent mission to the DRC by a US
Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) contractee met with
representatives of the Ministry of Transport and SNCC and
drew similar conclusions. They were told that the lack of
maintenance and deteriorated condition of rails, many of
which need replacement, has contributed to numerous
derailments along the entire SNCC system from the Zambian

KINSHASA 00000932 002 OF 002


border to Ilebo.

8. (U) Comment: While the causes of this accident remain
unconfirmed by officials, it must be assumed that the
dilapidated conditions of the railway system, including both
rails and rolling stock, factored heavily in the accident.
The difficulty of getting humanitarian aid to the affected
area by either road or air, in addition to the accident
itself, further reflects the poor state of DRC
infrastructure. End comment.
MEECE

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