TAHTA, Egypt (AP) – Two trains crashed in southern Egypt on Friday, killing at least 32 people and injuring 165, authorities said in the latest in a series of fatal crashes on the roads of troubled iron of the country.
Someone apparently activated the emergency brakes on the passenger train, and it was struck by another train, derailing two cars and tipping two cars to the side, Egyptian rail authorities said, although the prime minister Mustafa Madbouly later added that no cause had been determined. The passenger train was heading for the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, north of Cairo, railway officials said.
The video showed twisted piles of metal with dust-covered passengers trapped inside – some bleeding and others unconscious. The spectators removed the dead and deposited them on the ground nearby.
A passenger was heard shouting on the video, “Help us! People are dying! A passenger seemed to be upside down, pressed under the seats and crying, “Get me out, boy!”
Hazem Seliman, who lives near the train tracks and heard of the crash, said he initially believed the train struck a car. When he arrived at the scene, he said he found dead and wounded on the ground, including women and children.
“We transported the deceased and placed the injured in ambulances,” he said.
More than 100 ambulances were dispatched to the scene in Sohag province, about 440 kilometers (270 miles) south of Cairo, Health Minister Hala Zayed said, and the injured were taken to four hospitals. The injuries included fractures, cuts and bruises.
Two planes carrying a total of 52 medics, mostly surgeons, were sent to Sohag, she added at a press conference in the province, accompanied by Madbouly, who added that a military plane would bring those who need special surgery to Cairo.
Chief prosecutor Hamada el-Sawy was at the scene to investigate the crash, he said.
“The (rail) service has been neglected for decades to an extent that has made it quite outdated and extremely dangerous,” Madbouly told reporters. “We have spent billions to modernize the railroad, but we still have a long way to go to complete all the necessary work.”
The government will pay the equivalent of $ 6,400 in compensation to each family that has killed a relative, Madbouly said, while those injured will receive between $ 1,280 and $ 2,560, depending on the severity of their injury.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said he was monitoring the situation and that those responsible would receive “dissuasive punishment”.
“The pain that tears our hearts today can only make us more determined to end this type of disaster,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Egypt’s rail system has a history of poorly maintained equipment and mismanagement, and official figures indicate that there were 1,793 train accidents 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 railroad chief. That same year, el-Sisi said the government needed about 250 billion Egyptian pounds ($ 14.1 billion) to overhaul the rail system. The remarks came a day after a passenger train collided with a freight train, killing at least 12 people.
A year earlier, two passenger trains collided just outside Alexandria, killing 43 people. In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo.
Egypt’s deadliest train crash occurred in 2002, when more than 300 people were killed after a fire broke out on a train traveling from Cairo to southern Egypt.