Red Cross tracing unidentified victims in train crash

تم النشر: 8 يوليه 2002 0:00 CET

Andrei Neacsu in Igandu, Tanzania

"Greetings from Dar es Salaam," begins a letter written by a victim of Tanzania's worst ever train crash in which 281 people were killed and 600 injured. The bloodstained letter is dated 23 June, just one day before the crash, and has an address from the city of Tabora. It now remains for Nathaniel John, 30-year-old Tanzania Red Cross first aid instructor, to contact the family and tell them with due care what he has found.

While providing psychological assistance to survivors, Tanzania Red Cross is engaged in the difficult task of finding sufficient information about the victims so that grieving families can be informed about the fate of their loved ones.

Under a tent lie the bodies of unidentified victims carefully wrapped in improvised body bags by Red Cross volunteers. On top of one of the bags is a shoe. It is kept in the hope that a family member will recognize it – a macabre but important detail in the Tanzania Red Cross work of tracing families of 88 of the 281 dead, not yet identified.

Health workers and Red Cross volunteers are also trying to reach the families of all 600 of the injured, recovering in hospitals in Mpwapwa, Dodoma and Dar es Salaam.

At the crash site, near Igandu, the 21 wagons of the ill-fated train are all upside-down, thrown metres away from the rails, skinned of their metal covers. Separated from the chassis, the carriage bodies are marked with blooded finger prints, a sign of some survivor's struggle to escape the wreckage. The earth is littered with broken glass, cloth, loafs of bread, blood and abandoned suitcases.

Dixon Mtango, a railway inspector, was among the first to reach the accident site. "What I will never forget is the call for help of those trapped in the crashed carriages", he says. "And I will never forget the passion of the rescue workers, soldiers and Red Cross volunteers." Mr. Mtango has not left the crash site since the accident occurred and is now assisting the Red Cross.

There is practically no road from Igandu to the district capital Dodoma, 84 kilometres away. "It takes us, driving a land cruiser, two long hours to cover the 60 kilometres of sandy dirt track that link the crash site with the sealed road," says Sudy Kibango, who leads the Tanzania Red Cross volunteers. "Imagine the difficulty of the rescuers and the pain of the injured transported in trucks to regional hospitals."

In Dodoma, at the Jamhuri Stadium, Asha Mnzavas puts aside her role of Red Cross spokesperson. Among the identified bodies, a woman has recognized a member of her family. Asha must comfort the grieving woman and photograph the corpse – a last memory for a mourning family.

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02 July 2002 - Tanzanian train crash survivors look to the future
27 June 2002 - Funerals held for Tanzania train crash victims
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