Sisi vows punishment after rail tragedy causes scores of casualties

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi immediately vowed “deterrent punishment” for anyone found responsible for the collision, which killed 32 people, injured dozens about 365 km south of Cairo.
Friday 26/03/2021
The latest deadly crash in Egyptian National Railway’s dismal safety record. (AFP)
The latest deadly crash in Egyptian National Railway’s dismal safety record. (AFP)

CAIRO– At least 32 people were killed and 66 injured when two trains collided in central Egypt on Friday, the health ministry said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi immediately vowed “deterrent punishment” for anyone found responsible for the collision.

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

Pictures on local media showed train carriages derailed, several of them badly damaged, above a channel of water.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash close to the Nile-side town of Tahta, about 365 km south of Cairo. The public prosecutor’s office said it had 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,” a security source told Reuters.

Casualties were being taken to hospitals and 36 ambulances were dispatched to the scene, the health ministry said.

Local media displayed videos from the crash site showing flipped wagons with passengers trapped inside and surrounded by rubble. Some victims seemed unconscious, while others could be seen bleeding. Bystanders carried bodies, laying them out on the ground near the site of the smash.

Egypt’s railway system has a history of badly maintained equipment and poor management. Official figures show that across the country 1,793 train accidents took place 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 chief of the country’s railways.

In the same year, President Abdel-Fattah Sisi said the government lacked about 250 billion Egyptian pounds, or $14.1 billion, to overhaul the run-down rail system. Sisi spoke a day after a passenger train collided with a cargo train, killing at least 12 people, including a child.

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 occurred in 2002, when over 300 people were killed when fire erupted in speeding train traveling from Cairo to southern Egypt.