Trains crash in southern Egypt, killing at least 32 people

TAHTA, Egypt (AP) – Two trains crashed in southern Egypt on Friday, killing at least 32 people and injuring 165, authorities said in the latest of a string of fatal accidents on the country’s troubled railways.

Someone apparently activated the emergency brakes on the passenger train, and it was run by another train at the rear, derailing two cars and tipping over on their sides, Egyptian railway authorities said, although Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly later added that no cause has been identified. . The passenger train was bound for the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, north of Cairo, railway officials said.

Video showed twisted piles of metal with passengers covered in dust – some bleeding and others unconscious. Bystanders removed the dead and placed them on the ground nearby.

On the video, a passenger was heard shouting, “Help us! People are dying! A female passenger appeared to be upside down, squeezed under the seats and crying, “Get me out, boy!”

Hazem Seliman, who lives near the track and heard the crash, said he initially thought the train had hit a car. When he arrived on the scene, he said he had found the dead and wounded on the ground, including women and children.

“We carried the deceased and put the injured in ambulances,” he said.

More than 100 ambulances were sent to the scene in Sohag province, about 440 kilometers (270 miles) south of Cairo, Health Minister Hala Zayed said, and the injured were taken to four hospitals. Injuries included broken bones, cuts and bruises.

Two planes with a total of 52 doctors, mostly surgeons, were sent to Sohag, she added at a news conference in the province, accompanied by Madbouly, who added that a military plane would take those in need of special operations to Cairo .

Chief prosecutor Hamada el-Sawy was on the scene to investigate the crash, he said.

“The (rail) service has been neglected for decades and therefore quite outdated and extremely dangerous,” Madbouly told reporters. “We have spent billions to upgrade the railway, but we still have a long way to go to complete all the work required.”

The government will pay the equivalent of $ 6,400 to each family that killed a relative, Madbouly said, while the injured will receive between $ 1,280 and $ 2,560, depending on how badly they were injured.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he was monitoring the situation and those responsible would receive “a dire punishment”.

“The pain that tears our hearts today should make us more determined to end these kinds of disasters,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Egypt’s rail system has a history of poorly maintained equipment and mismanagement, and official figures said there were 1,793 train accidents in 2017.

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 national railways. In the same year, el-Sissi said the government needed about 250 billion Egyptian pounds ($ 14.1 billion) to overhaul the rail system. Those comments came a day after a passenger train collided with a freight train, killing at least 12 people.

A year earlier, two passenger trains collided just outside Alexandria, killing 43 people. In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided with Cairo.

The deadliest train accident in Egypt occurred in 2002, when more than 300 people died after a fire broke out on a train traveling from Cairo to southern Egypt.