Egypt train crash toll hits 41 as driv­ers ques­tioned

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

The death toll from Egypt’s lat­est train dis­as­ter rose to 41 yes­ter­day as two driv­ers were ques­tioned and cranes worked to clear the stricken rail­way line be­tween Cairo and the Mediter­ranean city of Alexan­dria. The driv­ers of the two trains that col­lided on Fri­day have been held for ques­tion­ing and four rail­way of­fi­cials sus­pended pend­ing the re­sults of a probe into its causes, Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Hisham Arafat told an Egyp­tian broad­caster.

Un­der flood­lights, res­cue teams had combed wrecked car­riages all night for ca­su­al­ties. 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. Arafat had told re­porters at the scene of the ac­ci­dent that it was not yet clear why the train had stopped, but sug­gested old traf­fic signals were to blame.

“We have a big prob­lem we had al­ready an­nounced, which is old traf­fic signals. We are com­pletely over­haul­ing them. This sec­tion here is be­ing de­vel­oped,” he said. An in­jured pas­sen­ger who was on the sta­tion­ary train said its de­par­ture had been de­layed and that it kept stop­ping en route. “It stopped ev­ery now and then be­tween sta­tions or be­fore sta­tions for five min­utes, I don’t know why,” the man told Dream tele­vi­sion sta­tion from his hos­pi­tal bed. “Ev­ery­one was scat­tered (by the col­li­sion), bod­ies were flung around,” he said.

The toll from Fri­day’s ac­ci­dent when the two trains col­lided near Alexan­dria rose to 41 dead, the health min­istry said yes­ter­day. The ac­ci­dent also wounded 132 peo­ple, with 79 be­ing dis­charged af­ter treat­ment while 53 re­mained in hos­pi­tal yes­ter­day, Health Min­is­ter Ahmed Emad el-Din Rady said. A stream of am­bu­lances had fer­ried the in­jured, stretched out on the ground in a field along­side the rail­way tracks, to Alexan­dria hos­pi­tals.

Work­ers used cranes to lift four knot­ted sheet-metal car­riages block­ing the nor­mally busy Cairo-Alexan­dria line. One train had been head­ing to Alexan­dria from Cairo and the other from Port Said, east along the coast. Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah Al-Sisi has sent his con­do­lences to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and or­dered a probe to “hold ac­count­able” those re­spon­si­ble for the dis­as­ter.

Chronic trans­port prob­lems

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 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.

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. — AFP

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