Dozens killed as commuter trains collide near Cairo during rush hour

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Dozens of Egyptian commuters were killed yesterday when two trains travelling to Cairo collided during the early morning rush hour.

The crash in the Nile Delta town of Qalyoub occurred when the driver of one of the trains failed to heed a stop signal and ploughed into the rear of a stationary train, Egypt Railways said.

Ministry of Health officials initially placed the death toll at 58, with 143 injured. Many of the injured were still trapped in the wreckage yesterday afternoon. The trains were travelling from the Delta towns of Mansoura and Benha. The Mansoura train had reportedly been travelling at more than 50 miles per hour when the impact occurred.

As emergency services reached the scene, bystanders, many of whom donated blood at the site, helped to remove bodies from the trains.

They described scenes of carnage in the crumpled, derailed carriages. "I carried so many dead people, many of them just body parts," said one.

The two trains involved were of the kind frequently seen on Egyptian railways in a perilous state of disrepair and dangerously overcrowded.

Qalyoub lies 12 miles from Cairo on the main railway line between the Egyptian capital and Alexandria. The service carries thousands of poor workers into the capital each day.

"The first train was stopped. We looked and saw the other train coming from behind, screeching," said Khalil Sheikh Khalil, who had disembarked from a minibus near by just before the crash happened.

"We kept saying, 'Driver, driver, a train is coming.' So the driver moved up 15 metres, and while he was moving, the two trains impacted," he told Reuters. Although officials were quick to blame human error for yesterday's crash, security services had to fight back a crowd of angry onlookers who directed chants of "negligence" at a government official who attended the scene.

Egyptian railways have long suffered from poor safety standards and a lack of investment in the rail infrastructure.

The crash is the latest in a long line of transport disasters in Egypt. Recent examples are the Safaga ferry disaster in February, which claimed 1,000 lives, and the Cairo-Luxor train fire in 2002, which killed 373 people.

That accident was the worst in 150 years of Egyptian rail history and prompted the resignation of both the transport minister and the head of the country's state railway system.

The Ministry of Health quickly made compensation pledges to the families of victims of the Qalyoub crash yesterday, with relatives of the dead promised £450 and those of the injured £90. Ministry of Transport officials refused to comment further on the circumstances surrounding the accident.