CAIRO – Two trains collided in southern Egypt on Friday, killing at least 32 people and wounding 90 others in the latest disaster to hit a railway system that has long suffered from accidents, poor maintenance and mismanagement.
It was not immediately clear whether the authorities suspected a sabotage incident or not. But the National Railways Authority said that someone activated emergency brakes on some cars on one of the trains, while another oncoming train collided, causing two passenger cars to overturn.
Dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene near the city of Sohag on the Nile, a six-hour drive south of Cairo. A video filmed by a passenger that posted online showed a feverish scene inside a vehicle, where people appeared to be trapped.
He heard one of the passengers shouting, “Save us.” “We can’t take people out.”
He promised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to a position on his post Official Twitter page To punish those responsible. “The pain in our hearts today will increase our determination to end such disasters,” he said.
The collision came at a time when Egypt was dealing elsewhere with a major crisis on the Suez Canal, as a cargo ship stopped traffic for several days on one of the ships in the world. The main shipping methods.
Rickety railways in Egypt have a terrible safety record, with fatal accidents, fires and collisions at signal junctions. In 2002, The worst rail disaster in the country More than 300 people were killed when a fire broke out on an express train heading to Cairo from southern Egypt.
At least 20 people were killed and dozens were injured in 2019 when A train collides with a platform In Cairo’s main railway station, which led to a fire. a year ago , Commuter train and freight train It collided in the Nile Delta north of Cairo, killing at least 12 people.
In 2017, Two trains crashed near the port of Alexandria, Killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 150.
The government statistics agency reported 10,965 train accidents between 2010 and 2015 2008 and 2017. The 1,793 railway accidents reported in 2017 were the largest number of accidents the country had seen in at least 15 years.
While the conduct of investigations and inquiries is often undertaken after accidents have occurred, little has been done to solve the long-standing problems. After one collapse in 2018, Sisi said the government lacked the nearly $ 14 billion needed to repair a dilapidated railway system.
“The last fatal accident occurred some time ago, so this is not necessarily a sign of neglect or a recurring problem,” said Reda Abu Harjah, a former deputy safety chief and former spokesman for the Egyptian Railways Authority.
But Mr. Abu Harjah, who retired shortly after the 2017 accident, acknowledged that the train system needed an overhaul.
“The country is implementing a comprehensive railway development plan,” he said. “They know it’s an absolute necessity and they put money in it at the end.”
Some of that money comes from the World Bank, which approved a $ 440 million loan to Egypt this month with the goal of modernizing the signaling system, modernizing hundreds of miles of workflow and improving safety and quality.
However, according to the World Bank, the project is an extension of a previous project that ended last year and failed to achieve many of its goals. Instead of halving the average number of deaths from railroad accidents over the past decade, for example, that number has doubled.
At a press conference, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly reiterated the government’s plan to develop the railway system, saying that billions had been spent but that progress was modest.
“There are tens of thousands of flights, and millions of passengers travel every day,” he said. “We are working on developing the facility, but it will take time, and one of the challenges is the possibility of these accidents.”
Anna Schaffin contributed reporting from London.