Death toll rises to 41 in Egypt train crash

Two trains collide in Egypt's Alexandria, killing dozens of people. The country's road and rail network is badly maintained and often deadly.
A witness said the two trains rose in the air "forming a pyramid" as they slammed into each other in Friday's horror accident.
A witness said the two trains rose in the air "forming a pyramid" as they slammed into each other in Friday's horror accident.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
A victim of the train crash warded in hospital on Friday. A stream of ambulances ferried the injured to Alexandria hospitals.
A victim of the train crash warded in hospital on Friday. A stream of ambulances ferried the injured to Alexandria hospitals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Four rail officials suspended, two train drivers questioned over collision that also left 132 injured

ALEXANDRIA • Four railway officials have been suspended and two train drivers questioned over the collision of two trains on the outskirts of the Egyptian city of Alexandria, as the death toll from Friday's disaster rose to 41.

Using floodlights and torches on their mobile phones, rescue teams combed wrecked carriages on the stricken railway line between Cairo and Alexandria all night for casualties. Cranes continued to work yesterday to clear the tracks.

The toll from Friday's accident when two trains hurtled into each other near Alexandria has risen to 41 dead and 132 wounded, the health ministry said yesterday.

Local media said the number of fatalities was likely to rise.

The drivers of the two mangled trains have been held for questioning and four railway officials suspended pending the results of a probe into the cause of the accident, Transportation Minister Hisham Arafat told an Egyptian broadcaster.

A witness said the trains rose into the air "forming a pyramid" as they slammed into each other just outside a suburban station in the Mediterranean port city.

Workers used cranes to lift four knotted sheet-metal carriages blocking the normally busy line.

Transport ministry officials, quoted on state television, have said the crash in farmland on the outskirts of Alexandria was probably caused by a malfunction in one train that brought it to a halt. The other train then crashed into it.

One train had been heading to Alexandria from Cairo and the other from Port Said, along the coast.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has sent his condolences to the victims' families and ordered an inquiry into the train crash.

Mr Arafat said "human error" led to the collision but did not elaborate.

"In order to avoid it, we have to develop the infrastructure," he told state television.

A project was under way to improve the area's facilities, but such plans took time and money, he said.

One resident, who gave her name as Hoda, was standing on her rooftop when she saw the trains plough into each other.

"They rose in the air forming a pyramid when they collided," she said. "I started to scream from the rooftop for people to ... run."

Mr Moumen Youssef, a passenger on one of the affected trains, said his train "was going very quickly".

"I found myself on the floor. When we came out, we found four train cars crushed and a lot of people on the ground."

Egyptians have long complained that successive governments failed to enforce basic safeguards for the railways.

A string of fatal crashes have further inflamed public anger over the antiquated transport network.

In 2012, a train rammed into a school bus south of Cairo and killed 50 people, mostly children.

In July 2008, at least 44 people died near Marsa Matruh in northwestern Egypt when a runaway truck hurtled into a bus, a lorry and several cars waiting at a level crossing.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 13, 2017, with the headline 'Death toll rises to 41 in Egypt train crash'. Print Edition | Subscribe