CAIRO: Thirty people were killed and 55 injured when two passenger trains collided Saturday evening, according to the latest statement by the Ministry of Health.
At around 6:45 pm the trains crashed into each other near the village of Girzah, in the area of Al-Ayyat about 40 kilometers south of Cairo, when one train stopped unexpectedly. The second train, heading from Cairo to Assuit, crashed into it from the rear, according to Minister of Transportation Mohammed Mansour in a telephone interview he gave to a local TV program.
The first train, number 125, had set off at 5 pm destined to Fayoum, but stopped suddenly when it hit a cow randomly crossing the rails. The driver then went out to remove the carcass to clear the rails.
Unable to halt in time, the second train, number 188, slammed into the back of the stationary one.
The last two carriages of train 125 were destroyed, according to a statement by Minister of Health Hatem El-Gabaly on the same TV program.
Villager Samih Saleh Abdel Al, 21, told AFP that “the first train stopped after hitting a cow and 10 minutes later the second train arrived at full speed.
The official MENA news agency said Prosecutor General Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud ordered the formation of a technical committee to determine the causes of the accident. He said that the black boxes of both trains will remain in his custody until the investigation ends.
Both Ministers of Health and Transportation visited the location where the ill-fated trains collided. Dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene, while rescue workers tried to use a crane to lift one wagon from atop of the other to pull the bodies from underneath the wreckage.
The Transport Minister announced Sunday morning that the ministry will pay compensation to the victims’ families “instantly, allocating LE 20,000 to the families of those who died and LE 5,000 to those injured.
The Health Ministry said that on Sunday morning, 17 passengers were admitted to Cairo’s Nasser Institute Hospital, four to Al Ahli Bank hospital, three to a hospital at the Pyramids area, and three to a hospital in Hawamdia, also in Giza.
Tarek Fahmy, a train driver, believes that the accident should be blamed on the railway authority and the railway stations’ watch towers.
“The watch tower of the village of Amar [where train 125 took off] should have informed that of Guerzah of the exact time the train departed, he said, adding that the Guerzah tower should have then contacted Amar tower to find out why it was late.
Egypt’s national railway system is the biggest in the Middle East, with nearly 5,000 km of track, according to the Egyptian National Railways, and has 86,000 employees.
Al Ayyat witnessed the deadliest of a series of railway accidents in 2002, when a train heading to southern Egypt caught fire, killing no less than 363 people.
More recently, a passenger train barreling toward a station collided with a second train in August 2006, killing 58 people. The train belonged to the country’s oldest and most dilapidated third-class train service.
The incident prompted the government to approve an immediate allocation of $860 million to develop the rail infrastructure, plus another $600 million in loans to the sector later in that year.