Liberia: AML Train Gutted by Fire In Sanniquellie



--Causing panic among residents 
“The train was still moving with the fire blazing until we made a sign before the operator could know that something was going on, and this is how they stopped.”

A locomotive belonging to ArcelorMittal Liberia, marked AML 095, was gutted by fire in the center of Sanniquellie City at about 6AM on Thursday, March 16, while carrying about 55 wagons loaded with ore to the Port Of Buchanan, causing panic among the residents.

The cause of the fire that left the locomotive nearly burned is yet to be established. A resident living around the Nimba University, near where the incident occurred, said she heard a train coming, but suddenly she saw smoke billowing over the train with the crew jumping through the window for their lives.

“I was totally afraid to see this kind of heavy fire over the train at this early hours, where we were preparing our kids for school,” said Laimon Moore, a mother of three.

“The train was still moving with the fire blazing until we made a sign before the operator could know that something was going on and this is how he stopped,” said another resident, who asked not to be named.

According to some AML workers, the management immediately sent a rescue team from Yekepa with a fire truck and they were able to extinguish the fire, transport the burned locomotive back to Yekepa and call in for another locomotive from Buchanan to take the ore away.

No damage was reportedly done to the ore at all, because there was no derailment, though the locomotive remained on the track/rail and got burned.

AML locomotives have been involved in a series of accidents since they began the moving ore from Yekepa to Buchanan in 2011, but the most fatal was last year when two maintenance workers got killed with several others wounded while carrying on maintenance work on the railroad.

In May 2021, two locomotives coming from opposite directions collided in Nimba County, leaving the two operators to sustain severe injuries with neither of them yet to resume work.

There have been a series of derailments, which left huge tonnes of iron ore wasted. The latest was in April, when a locomotive marked 1505 was derailed at kilometer 170 from the port of Buchanan, dumping 25 of the 45 wagons loaded with iron ore.

AML has been blamed by some victims of the past incidents for not putting safety mechanisms in place, in terms of better communication links along the railroad to alert the operators of one another location like during the days of LAMCO, where the control towel responsible for the movement of locomotive was vibrant.

Some of the victims from last year’s incident recounted how at some points AML locomotive operators were forced to use mobile phones to know the location of other locomotives and, where there is no network, it became very risky, something the company could not verify when contacted.

AML is said to be operating six locomotives, with this 095 being the latest to be brought in the country, according to staff of the company who asked not to be named.

With this latest incident the communication department is yet to comment despite several contacts.