CAIRO (AFP) – At least 37 people were killed as two trains collided on Friday (Aug 11) outside the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, in one of the deadliest in a string of such accidents in Egypt, the health ministry said.
The crash also injured 123 people, the ministry said in a statement.
Footage on the state broadcaster showed one train had partly keeled over in the crash, and medics were seen moving the dead and injured to ambulances.
Transport ministry officials, quoted on state television, said the crash was probably caused by a malfunction in one train that brought it to a halt on the rails.
The other train then crashed into it.
One train had been heading from Cairo to the northern city of Alexandria and the other from the canal city of Port Said, east of the capital, to Alexandria.
The dead and injured were initially placed on blankets in a field beside the tracks running through farmland on the outskirts of the city.
The health ministry said 75 ambulances had been dispatched to treat casualties and that all the hospitals in Alexandria had been placed on high alert.
Assistant health minister Sharif Wadi told state television that most of the injured had been transferred to hospital.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sent his condolences to the victims’ families and ordered a probe to “hold accountable” those responsible for the disaster, his office said.
It was the deadliest train accident in the North African country since a train ploughed into a bus carrying schoolchildren in November 2012, killing 47 people.
That accident had jolted the government which ordered an investigation and sacked the transport minister and the head of the railway authority.
The accident was blamed on a train signal operator who fell asleep on the job.
STRING OF ACCIDENTS
The probe, however, did not prevent further accidents. Just months later, a train carrying military conscripts derailed, killing 17 people.
Around a year later, a collision between a train and a bus killed 27 people south of the capital.
They had been returning from a wedding when the train ploughed into their bus and a truck at a railway crossing.
Egyptians have long complained that the government has failed to deal with chronic transport problems, with roads as poorly maintained as railway lines.
There have been many other fatal crashes on the busy rail network.
In July 2008, at least 44 people died near Marsa Matruh in northwest Egypt when a runaway truck hurtled into bus, truck and several cars waiting at a level crossing, shunting the vehicles into the path of a train.
In August 2006, at least 58 Egyptians were killed and 144 injured in a collision between two trains travelling on the same track.
In the wake of that crash, a court sentenced 14 railway employees to one year in prison for neglect.
The deadliest accident on Egypt’s railways dates back to 2002 when 373 people died when a fire ripped through a crowded train south of the capital.