DSCHANG, 29 January 2021 – Fifty-three people are dead and 29 others seriously injured after a passenger bus collided with a truck transporting flammable liquid and burst into flames near Dschang in Cameroon’s West Region, .
The accident occurred at around 3 a.m., according to villagers who say they were jolted out of sleep by the loud explosions that rocked the night.
The truck driver allegedly lost control of the vehicle after a brake malfunction.
The truck was rolling down the steep, dangerous Dschang Hill, when it collided with a bus of the travel agency Menoua Voyage.
The accident “highlights the problem of night trips favored by certain inter-urban passenger transport companies and the need for their supervision,” said Cameroon’s transport minister, Jean Ernest Massena Ngalle Bible.
The flammable liquid on the truck exploded as soon as the truck slammed into the passengers bus which, in turn, was enveloped in a ball of fire.
Then the truck, still unable to stop, skidded further off from the passenger bus coming to a stop only after hitting the fender bender.
The additional distance between the truck and the passenger bus proved to be a life-saver for the 29 passengers, including children, who cheated death, escaping with serious injuries.
Officials at the Dschang District Hospital said most of the injured suffered body burns in the second or third degree.
Villagers downslope from the scene of the accident told reporters that the explosions coming from the burning vehicles sounded like bombs being dropped in the dead of night.
One woman said she could hear people scream in “loud, desperate voices” from her home which she estimated to be more than two miles from the scene of the accident.
The flames from the two vehilces leapt into the air all night and black smoke was still rising from the scene into the sky as day broke.
Rescue workers pulled out and counted 53 badly charred mortal remains from the completed charred passenger bus and truck which had two people on board.
Everyone who has seen the charred remains of the passenger bus and the truck say it is a miracle that anyone survived the accident.
Every window of the passenger bus was blown out and the paint on it was completely eaten up by the fire.
The bus was very badly mangled and the metal it was made of simply melted, in some parts under the intense heat of the overnight fire.
One police officer said that if he had arrived the scene without the prior knowledge of what had happened, he would have been tempted to guess that a bomb was dropped on the vehicles.
“The place looks like a war zone,” the police officer said.
Despite burning all night, the two vehicles were still on fire the next morning, several hours after the accident had happened about 3 a.m. As morning broke, the flammable liquid from the truck was still running down a culvert along the side of the road forming what some described as a flaming spring.
Pictures from the accident scene showed dozens of mortal remains, rolled up in bundles of white sheets, laid on the bare ground along the side of the road, awaiting pickup by undertakers.
The process of identifying the victims was just beginning Thursday and police in Dschang said they had opened an investigation into the cause of the accident.
The slopes of Dschang Hill are among the most dangerous roads in the world. The road down the slopes is popularly, and appropriately, referred to as “falaise”, the French word for cliff.
It is a badly constructed road, every observer admits. In designing it, officials appeared more anxious to avoid paying compensation to landowners they would have had to move than on building a safe road.
Cameroon’s ministry of transport kept the tarred road running on the same old path that villagers were forced to dig with spades and hoes in the late 1800s and early 1900s while Cameroon was under German colonization.
Forced labor known as “njongmassi” in the West Region of Cameroon consisted of the colonizers compelling locals to provide services for free to the colonizers.
Accidents occur frequently on the “Falaise de Dschang” (Dschang Cliff), and every time they happen, the most recurrent complaint drivers give is brake malfunction.
Road safety advocates insist that the Dschang Cliff is a death trap built by officials and engineers who should have their diplomas withdrawn for malpractice and criminal negligence.