At least 32 killed and 165 injured in Egypt train crash

Collision occurred after emergency brakes of Alexandria-bound passenger train activated

More than 30 people have been killed, with many more injured, after two passenger trains collided near the town of Tahta, Egypt. Video: EFE

 

At least 32 people were killed and 165 injured when two trains collided in central Egypt on Friday, health ministry officials said, as the prime minister admitted the country’s rail network urgently needed modernising.

Egypt’s railway authorities said the incident happened when someone activated the emergency brakes of a passenger train heading to the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. The train stopped abruptly and was hit from behind by another train, causing two carriages from the first train to overturn.

Local media displayed videos from the scene showing overturned carriages with passengers trapped inside and surrounded by rubble. Some victims seemed unconscious, while others could be seen bleeding. Bystanders carried bodies and laid them out on the ground near the site.

Dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene in the province of Sohag, according to a statement by Egypt’s health ministry, and the wounded were transferred to four nearby hospitals. Their injuries included bone fractures, cuts and abrasions, the statement said.

Some of the injured were to be airlifted to the capital Cairo for treatment, officials said.

The public prosecutor’s office said it had ordered an investigation into the crash, which took place close to the Nile-side town of Tahta, about 365km south of Cairo.

Health minister Hala Zayed said 32 people had died, 165 people were injured and dozens of ambulances had taken casualties to local hospitals.

Egypt has one of the oldest and largest rail networks in the region and accidents involving casualties are common. Egyptians have long complained that successive governments have failed to enforce basic safeguards.

In the country’s worst train disaster, in 2002, a fire tore through seven carriages of an overcrowded passenger train, killing at least 360 people.

In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo. Official figures show that in the following year, 1,793 train accidents took place across the country. In one of them, two passenger trains collided just outside Alexandria, killing 43 people.

In 2018, a passenger train derailed near the southern city of Aswan, injuring at least six people and prompting authorities to fire the chief of the country’s railways.

“[The rail network] has witnessed decades of neglect and no development or maintenance to a very dangerous extent,” prime minister Mostafa Madbouly said after heading to the site of the crash with several ministers.

“We have thousands of kilometres of rail lines, control and management systems dependent on manual labour and cars that are very old and past their period of service by many years.”

The government was investing billions in modernising the rail network but still had much work to do, he added.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said those responsible for the latest crash would be punished. He said he had asked the government to double the normal financial compensation for casualties in public transport accidents.

“The pain that tears our hearts today cannot but make us more determined to end this type of disasters,” he wrote on his Facebook page. – Reuters/AP