Egypt: Train collision kills 32 after emergency brakes triggered

More than 100 others injured after two trains collided north of Sohag city in southern Egypt, health ministry says.

A screengrab shows people gathered around the wreckage after two trains collided in Tahta district of Sohag province on Friday [AFP]

Two trains collided on Friday in southern Egypt apparently after someone activated the emergency brakes, killing at least 32 people and leaving 108 injured.

The collision caused three passenger cars to flip over and videos on local media from the scene showed wagons with passengers trapped inside and surrounded by debris.

Some victims seemed unconscious while others could be seen bleeding. Bystanders carried bodies and laid them out on the ground near the site.

Egypt’s railway authority said the trains collided after emergency brakes were triggered by “unknown individuals” near the city of Sohag, about 500km (260 miles) south of the capital Cairo.

The brakes caused one of the trains to stop and the other to crash into it from behind, and the authority is conducting further investigations, it said.

Egypt has been plagued by deadly train accidents in recent years that have been widely blamed on inadequate infrastructure and poor maintenance [AFP]

The public prosecutor’s office said it has also ordered an investigation.

“The trains collided while going at not very high speeds, which led to the destruction of two carriages and a third to overturn,” an unnamed security source told Reuters news agency.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi promised to punish those responsible for the deadly wreck.

“Anyone who caused this painful accident through negligence or corruption, or anything similar, must receive a deterrent punishment without exception or delay,” el-Sisi said on Twitter.

El-Sisi told Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to head to the site of the crash with the ministers of health and social solidarity, state television reported.

Middle East analyst Yehia Ghanem said the punishment for low-level employees, as has occurred in the past, fails to address the structural problems with Egypt’s massive and decaying rail system.

“There is a serious problem when it comes to fundamental services to the Egyptian people, including the railways. These kinds of accidents happen sometimes on a weekly basis. The responsibility falls on the system, on the regime, on the president himself,” Ghanem told Al Jazeera.

Run-down rail system

Egypt has one of the oldest and largest rail networks in North Africa and accidents causing casualties are common.

Official figures show that 1,793 train accidents took place in 2017 across the country.

In 2018, el-Sisi said the government lacks about $14.1bn to overhaul the run-down rail system.

A year earlier, two passenger trains collided just outside the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, killing 43 people. In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo.

Egypt’s deadliest train crash took place in 2002, when more than 300 people were killed after a fire broke out on a speeding train travelling from Cairo to southern Egypt.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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