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Sunday, February 15, 1998 Published at 03:04 GMT

World: Africa

100 feared dead in fuel explosion
image: [ Chaos as fuel train exploded near the Cameroonian capital ]
Chaos as fuel train exploded near the Cameroonian capital

As many as 100 people have died after a cargo train hauling oil tanker cars crashed and exploded into flames on the outskirts of Yaounde, Cameroon's capital.

The tanker train came off the rails after colliding with an oncoming train.

Many of the victims were taxi drivers who rushed in to scoop up oil gushing from the ruptured tankers and were caught in the explosion, rescue workers said.

According to a witness, a lit cigarette sparked the blast.

Death toll expected to rise

Yaounde's coroner, Defoe Mambo, said the death toll could be as high as 100.

He said it was likely to climb as more victims are brought to hospital.

"We have been able to identify between 50 and 80 dead," Mr Mambo said.

"But we do not know where all the corpses have been taken."

[ image: Biya; government faces big clean-up]
Biya; government faces big clean-up
The Prime Minister, Peter Mafany Musonge has visited the scene of the disaster. He said everything possible would be done to help the casualties.

There was a scene of devastation where the explosion took place.

The accident severed the city's main rail artery. It may take several days to clear the wreckage and debris.

A giant plume of black smoke was visible through much of Yaounde as rescue workers scrambled to extinguish the fire near the city's central petroleum depot in Nsam.

By Saturday evening the fire had died down, but flames could still be seen from a distance.

Blow to the oil industry

The accident is one of the worst disasters to hit the country since its oil industry first began to develop in the 1970s.

Much of Cameroon's oil comes from a disputed stretch of oil-rich land, the Bakassi Peninsula, bordering Nigeria.

Nigeria and Cameroon almost went to war in 1981 over the contested oil reserves and fought border clashes in 1996.

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