At least 18 people die as two trains collide in southern Egypt

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
A video grab taken from Egyptian state television shows people gathered around two trains that collided in the Tahta district on March 26, 2021.
A video grab taken from Egyptian state television shows people gathered around two trains that collided in the Tahta district on March 26, 2021.   -   Copyright  EGYPTIAN STATE TV / AFP

Two trains collided on Friday in southern Egypt, causing three passenger cars to flip over, killing at least 18 people and leaving at least 150 injured, health authorities said.

Dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene in the southern province of Sohag, according to a statement by Egypt’s health ministry. At least 50 wounded were transferred to four nearby hospitals.

Health Minister Hala Zayed is travelling to the site "to monitor the health status of the injured".

The Public Prosecutor's Office has announced that it has opened an investigation to clarify the circumstances of the accident.

Authorities had initially put the death toll at 32, but on Saturday they lowered the figure to at least 18.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi extended his "full condolences to the families of the martyrs who met their Lord today" and extended his "full sympathy, support, and wishes for a speedy recovery" to the wounded.

He added on Twitter that he has asked all concerned agencies to "take all necessary measures and provide adequate compensation to the families of the martyrs and victims"

"I have directed the Prime Minister and all agencies concerned to be present at the site of the accident and to follow up continuously and to keep me informed of all developments and reports related to the situation throughout the moment."

"Any person who has caused this tragic incident by negligence, corruption or otherwise shall be punished with a deterrent penalty, without exception, recklessness or procrastination," he added.

Egypt’s Railway Authorities issued another statement saying the accident happened when someone activated the emergency brakes of a passenger train that had been headed to the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. The breaks caused it to stop abruptly and be struck from behind by another incoming train. The collision caused two cars from the first train to flip over.

Local media displayed videos from the scene showing flipped cars with passengers trapped inside and surrounded by rubble. Some victims seemed unconscious, while others could be seen bleeding. Bystanders carried bodies and laid them out on the ground near the site.

Egypt’s railway system has a history of badly maintained equipment and poor management. Official figures show that 1,793 train accidents took place in 2017 across the country.

In 2018, a passenger train derailed near the southern city of Aswan, injuring at least six people and prompting authorities to fire the chief of the country’s railways.

The same year, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said the government lacks about 250 billion Egyptian pounds (€13.5 billion) to overhaul the run-down rail system. El-Sissi spoke a day after a passenger train collided with a cargo train, killing at least 12 people, including a child.

A year earlier, two passenger trains collided just outside the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, killing 43 people. In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo.

Egypt's deadliest train crash took place in 2002 when over 300 people were killed when fire erupted in a speeding train travelling from Cairo to southern Egypt.