The train's derailed wagons are seen on the tracks about 65km north of Kamina, in the southern province of Katanga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Picture: Numbi Mathys

Kinshasa -

The transport minister in Democratic Republic of Congo has blamed both a train driver and lax police officers for a rail accident that killed at least 136 clandestine passengers last month.

“The engine driver ... did not use the dual brakes at the right moment” when his freight train was moving too fast near Katangola in the southeastern Katanga province on April 22, Justin Kalumba said on Wednesday.

When the driver finally braked strongly and abruptly, he caused “an accordion effect” in which the good wagons slammed into each other hard and the train derailed, the minister added.

After the accident, Congolese authorities long stuck by a death toll of 74, though local Red Cross workers said that up to 200 people may have died.

The Congolese News Agency raised the official count to 136 dead on Wednesday, adding that many other victims were believed to have been swept away by the Mwyi river flowing next to the tracks.

The government also blamed police for negligence by failing to prevent illicit passengers from clambering aboard a goods train, which is a frequent practice. But the colonial rail network can be a risky ride, since it has seen little maintenance work since independence from Belgium in 1960. - Sapa-AFP