Mix-up blamed for train deaths

Washington (Reuters) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) blamed a breakdown in co-ordination with local authorities for the death of around 100 Rwandan Hutu refugees in a packed train on Sunday.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before