Mix-up blamed for train deaths
Tuesday 06 May 1997
Sadako Ogata, the High Commissioner, said: "These arrangements did not move with full coordination ... the military on the ground and our office were not really co-ordinated because of the difficulty of co-ordination as such."
UN officials in Zaire said the refugees suffocated or were crushed to death in the badly overcrowded train carrying them from a refugee camp to the northeastern town of Kisangani, where they were to be airlifted home to Rwanda.
Ms Ogata said that local authorities had ordered the train to leave Biaro, about 25 miles south of Kisangani, "without HCR clearance" because too many people were already aboard as the train prepared to pull out.
No UNHCR staff were aboard the train, made up of six open-topped cars, she said. "It just went," carrying the refugees, railway staff, six soldiers, presumably rebels, and a local employee of the UN World Food Programme.
Quoting from a UNHCR report on the tragedy, she said refugees swarmed on board at two stops, where as many as 5,000 to 6,000 people were waiting to board.
Many probably died at the first stop in the course of storming the train, she said. And "the train was made to stop again and others scrambled to get on board."
Survivors said thousands of refugees had swarmed onto the train as it pulled out of a station near Biaro camp. The weak, children and dozens of desperately ill adults aboard were forced to the bottom of the cars in the crush that followed.
The railway is controlled by Zairean rebel authorities, who have either resisted or co-operated reluctantly with the UN effort to airlift the Hutu refugees, who number about 80,000, back to Rwanda.
Ms Ogota said that if a UN effort to begin the airlift last month had gone ahead as planned, the tragedy would not have occurred.
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 4 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Russell Brand opposes anti-Semitism after death threats: 'We must disavow all forms of prejudice that lead to exclusion and execution'
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – as hunt begins for killer
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Microbial life found living on the exterior of the International Space Station, say reports
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...