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Sunday, 26 May, 2002, 00:07 GMT 01:07 UK
Mozambique mourns rail disaster victims
Emergency workers described a scene of carnage
President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique has declared three days of national mourning for about 200 people who died in a train crash in the south of the country.

Hundreds more people were injured in the accident, which the president described as the worst in the country's history.

He urged people to donate blood to help treat the injured.

The crash happened on Saturday in a mountainous region north of the capital, Maputo, on the main rail line between Mozambique and South Africa.

In a BBC interview, Transport Minister Tomas Salomao blamed human error for the crash, which occurred after passenger carriages were separated from goods wagons to enable the train to climb a steep hill.

Mr Salomao said two passenger carriages were completely destroyed after rolling at speed down the hill into the cargo wagons.

Emergency workers at the crash site described a scene of carnage.

"When we got here, passengers were dying in our arms because we could not get them out quickly enough," one police officer said.

Victims being treated at a Maputo hospital
Doctors complained of a shortage of blood and drugs
"Everything is destroyed, there are bodies that have been cut in half and we don't know how to match them up, there are severed limbs."

Ambulances and private cars ferried the injured to hospital in Maputo 40 kilometres (25 miles) away.

At the main hospital in the capital, scores of people lay on thin foam mattresses on the floor.

President Chissano - who cut short a visit to his home village on hearing of the accident - visited victims in the hospital wards as well as going to the mortuary.

Civil war

Rail transport is very important in Mozambique, a country which went through a devastating 17-year civil war.

The conflict ended nearly a decade ago, but not before it obliterated much of Mozambique's transport networks and infrastructure.

Intensive use of land mines in the conflict has also made many areas and routes hazardous.

But Mozambique has experienced significant economic development since the civil war ended. It is a transit route for many products from South Africa to other landlocked countries in the interior like Malawi, making transport a critical link.

The BBC's Emmanuel Camillo in Mozambique
"A lot of people are still trapped"
Michelle Gallagher, Goal aid agency, Mozambique
"The government has responded very well"
See also:

08 Mar 00 | Africa
20 May 02 | Country profiles
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