TAHTA: A collision between two trains killed at least 32 passengers and left more than 100 injured on Friday in southern Egypt, a country plagued by fatal rail accidents widely blamed on crumbling infrastructure and poor maintenance.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged tough punishment for those responsible for the crash, which came as his government wrestles with another major transport challenge, a giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal and causing huge traffic jams at either end.
The health ministry said dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene in the Tahta district of Sohag province, some 460 kilometres south of the capital Cairo after the collision.
Thirty-two people were killed and 108 injured, the health ministry said in an updated casualty toll.
Springs and twisted metal jutted out from the wreckage, as dozens of people gathered around the overturned carriages, a correspondent reported.
Harrowing images from inside one of the carriages posted on Facebook showed men and women screaming for help as they tried to free themselves from the wreckage.
“People are dying. Where are the authorities? Help us,” one young man shouted repeatedly. An image showed another man covered in dust trapped by twisted metal in what could have been the aisle of the carriage.
In another frame, a man is heard urging a middle-aged woman who appears stuck between seats to move forward. She struggles and is heard saying: “Please, my, son help me.”
Egypt’s rail authority said the crash occurred after unidentified passengers had “activated emergency brakes in several carriages” in one of the trains.
A statement said that one train hit the last carriage of the other, causing at least two carriages to overturn between the stations of Maragha and Tahta.
One of the trains was travelling between the southern city of Luxor and Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast, while the other was on the way between Cairo and the southern city of Aswan.
Health Minister Hala Zayed travelled to Sohag to check on the injured, as authorities opened an investigation into the accident.
Egypt has been plagued with deadly train accidents in recent years. One of the deadliest was in 2002 when 373 people died as a fire ripped through a crowded train south of Cairo, and there have been many fatal crashes since.
Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2021