Death toll rises to 49, mostly children, as train hits nursery school bus at crossing in Egypt

 

A speeding train has crashed into a bus carrying children to their kindergarten in southern Egypt, killing at least 49, officials said. Distraught families searched for signs of their loved ones along the tracks and angry villagers berated officials in the aftermath of the latest disaster to hit the country's railway system.

The bus was carrying more than 50 children ages four to six when it was hit near al-Mandara village in Manfaloot district in the province of Assiut, a security official said. He said it appeared that the railroad crossing was not closed as the train sped toward it.

Egypt's railway system has a poor safety record, mostly blamed on decades of badly maintained equipment and poor management.

Books, school bags and children's socks were strewn along the tracks near the blood-stained, mangled bus. Parents of the missing wailed as they looked for signs of their children. An Associated Press reporter at the scene said many of the remains were unrecognizable.

A woman who called herself Um Ibrahim, a mother of three, was pulling her hair in distress. "My children! I didn't feed you before you left," she wailed. One witness said the train pushed the bus along the tracks for nearly a kilometre.

As one man picked up a body part he screamed: "Only God can help!" Two hospital officials said between seven and 11 wounded were being treated in two different facilities, many with severed limbs.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Accidents traced to negligence regularly left scores dead during the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, who was accused of valuing loyalty over competence in many appointments of senior officials. Widespread corruption under his three decades in power has also been blamed for the underfunding of government services, particularly in poor provinces outside Cairo.

The railway's worst disaster took place in February 2002 when a train heading to southern Egypt caught fire, killing 363 people. Media reports quoted official statistics saying that the rail and road accidents claimed more than 7,000 lives in 2010.

This is the worst such tragedy since the country's first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, took office this summer. Egypt's Transport Minister Mohammed el-Meteeni resigned in the wake of the crash, the state news agency reported, but some activists have accused Morsi of continuing the mistakes of his predecessor.

Morsi said in a short televised address from his office that he had tasked the state prosecutor with investigating the crash. "Those responsible for this accident will be held accountable," he said.

But some activists who helped engineer last year's uprising against Mubarak said that government negligence toward citizens is no longer acceptable.

"President Mohammed Morsi is responsible and must follow up personally," one such movement, the April 6 group, said in a statement. "He is the one who chose this failed government whose disasters increase day after day."

In a heated discussion on one of the state-owned radio stations, callers and the presenter expressed outrage and demanded an immediate overhaul and modernization of the train system. Like most government bodies, employees at the Ministry of Transportation complain of poor pay and poor working conditions.

Earlier this week, metro workers went on strike to protest their working conditions, inadequate equipment and management.

Today's accident comes one week after two trains collided in another southern province, killing four people. Some of the country's train accidents are blamed on an outdated system that relies heavily on switch operators instead of assistance from technology.

Residents in Assiut complained that there were not enough ambulances in the area that could respond quickly enough and that the ambulances themselves were ill-equipped to deal with the emergency.

At al-Mandara village, angry families and locals gathered near the tracks, shouting at officials. Some chanted: "Down with Morsi!"

Sheik Mohammed Hassan, a villager, said the government should be paying more attention to its domestic problems instead of focusing its attention to the violence in neighboring Gaza.

"The blood of people in Assiut is more important than Gaza," he said.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all