By NOHA ELHENNAWY and MOHAMED WAGDY, Associated Press
TAHTA, Egypt (AP) – Two trains crashed on Friday in southern Egypt, killing at least 32 people and injuring 165, officials said in the latest of a series of fatal accidents on the country’s troubled railways.
Someone apparently activated the emergency brake on the passenger train, and it was terminated again by another train, causing two cars to derail and overturn them, Egyptian railway officials said, although Prime Minister Mustafa Maidouli later stated that no reason had been determined. Rail officials said the passenger train was headed for the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, north of Cairo.
The video showed twisted piles of metal, with passengers trapped in dust – some bleeding and others unconscious. The bistanders removed the dead and placed them on a nearby ground.
A passenger was heard shouting on the video, “Help us! People are dying! “A female passenger appeared upside down, squeezed under the seats, and was crying,” Get me out, boy! “
Hezam Seliman, who lives near the tracks and heard about the crash, said he initially thought the train had hit a car. When he arrived at the scene, he said that he had been found dead and injured, among them women and children.
“We took the deceased and put the injured in an ambulance,” he said.
Health Minister Hal Zaid said more than 100 ambulances were sent to the scene in Sohag province, about 440 kilometers (270 mi) south, and the injured were taken to four hospitals. The injuries included broken bones, cuts and bruises.
Two planes carrying a total of 52 doctors, mostly surgeons, were sent to Sohag, paired with Madboli at a news conference in the province, who said a military aircraft would bring people in need of special surgery to Cairo.
Chief prosecutor Hamada al-Sawi was at the scene to investigate the accident, he said.
“The railway (railway) service has been neglected for decades and is very old and extremely dangerous,” Maidouli told reporters. “We have spent billions to upgrade the railway, but we still have a long way to go to complete all the necessary tasks.”
The government will pay the equivalent of $ 6,400 as compensation to each family, Madouli said, while the injured will receive between $ 1,280 and $ 2,560, depending on how much they were hurt.
President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said he is monitoring the situation and those responsible will receive “a deterrent punishment”.
“The pain that tears our hearts today, but could not make us more determined to end these types of disasters,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Egypt’s rail system has a history of badly maintained equipment and mismanagement, and official figures said that 1,793 train accidents occurred 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 country’s head of railways. In the same year, El-Sisi said the government needed about 250 billion Egyptian pounds ($ 14.1 billion) to overhaul the rail system. The remark came a day after a passenger train collided with a freight train, killing at least 12 people.
A year ago, two passenger trains collided just outside Alexandria, killing 43. In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo.
Egypt’s deadliest train accident occurred in 2002, when more than 300 people were killed in a fire on a train going from Cairo to southern Egypt.
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