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Train disaster fuels rising anger

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Shahira Amin

Shahira Amin

News of Monday night’s deadly train accident in Badrashin, 40 km south of Cairo, shocked and dismayed Egyptians . Nineteen young conscripts of the Central Security Forces were killed and scores were injured (many of them critically) when two train carriages derailed and rammed into a parked freight train. The train, carrying more than a thousand conscripts had been en route to Cairo from Upper Egypt when the accident occurred.

The Badrashin accident, the latest in a string of deadly train accidents in Egypt, comes less than two months after a tragic train-bus collision that killed fifty one schoolchildren in Assiut and almost two weeks after a new transportation minister was appointed to overhaul the country’s crumbling rail system.

Egyptians had hardly recovered from the shock of the November accident when news of the latest accident broke on Monday night, triggering a fresh public outcry. Angry protests broke out at Ramses Train Station in Cairo and the main train station in Alexandria on Tuesday afternoon, disrupting Cairo-Alexandria rail traffic for several hours. The protesters chanted anti-government slogans, demanding “an end to the rule of the supreme guide”.

Frustrated at the lack of reforms and President Morsy’s “failure to fulfill his electoral campaign promises”, opposition activists are calling for a “second revolution” on the anniversary of the January 2011 uprising that toppled his predecessor Hosni Mubarak. Morsy’s opponents accuse the Islamist president of following in Mubarak’s footsteps and using the same tactics as the former authoritarian president.

Violent clashes between Morsy’s Islamist supporters and opposition activists over an Islamist-backed constitution outside Al-Ittihadeya Palace in Heliopolis last month left seven people dead and injured scores of others. A faltering economy and a fragile security situation have further fueled the anger and frustration.

The latest train disaster triggered a fresh wave of anti-government criticism in both the traditional media and on social media networks. It also sparked an exchange of accusations between the Muslim Brotherhood and opposition political forces which seized the opportunity to take aim at the Islamist regime.

“Egypt’s real tragedy is the inability of its rulers to manage the country,” a remorseful Mohamed ElBaradei, co-founder of the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF), wrote on Twitter.

Hamdi Qandil, a prominent talk show host and member of the NSF, meanwhile told state-owned Al Ahram: “In the absence of government accountability, such accidents would continue to happen.”

“The rail system has deteriorated to a point that is almost beyond repair and needs a complete overhaul,” he added.

Saad Al-Katatni, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and former parliamentary speaker, meanwhile blamed the corruption of the old regime for “the near-total collapse of infrastructure.”

He reiterated Morsy’s calls for Egyptians to unify their ranks and work to rebuild the country.

A visit by President Morsy to the Maadi Military Hospital where some of the injured soldiers are undergoing treatment and his promises to hold officials accountable for the accident have meanwhile, done little to quell the rising anger of Egyptians.

“In Mubarak’s days, we witnessed the ferry disaster in which more than one thousand people died. Little has changed in the country since,” lamented 34-year-old taxi driver Ahmed Ragheb.

He vowed to join the opposition protesters in Tahrir Square, come 25 January.

“Enough is enough,” he said.

About the author

Shahira Amin

Shahira Amin

Shahira Amin is an award-winning freelance journalist and former Deputy Head of Nile TV. She quit her job at the height of last year's uprising in Tahrir Square in protest at State TV's biased coverage of the revolution. Amin is also a longtime contributor to CNN International.

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