Cairo: Ahmad Abdul Mohsin, a law student, had mixed feelings when he learnt that the train he had left almost 30 minutes earlier had a tragic crash. "I was aboard the train leaving from Giza to Fayyoum when it broke down for 30 minutes after it rammed into a buffalo," he said.
"As the disruption continued for half an hour, I decided to get off and delay my journey, only to find out later that another train had ploughed into it from behind," Abdul Mohsin Gulf News.
"I rushed back to the heart-wrenching scene to help rescue the injured passengers and recover the bodies from the wreckage of the rear carriage of the train," he said. "Unfortunately, this accident provides yet a fresh proof that the transportation of the poor in Egypt is below the human standards."
The collision, the latest in a series of rail crashes in this country of 80 million, has again thrust into focus the deterioration in the rail service, on which millions of poor Egyptians depend to shuttle across the nation.
The accident occurred on Saturday evening when a passenger train travelling from Cairo to Assiut in southern Egypt crashed into another train, which had broken down earlier after running over a buffalo in the village of Guezah, 40 kilometres south of Cairo.
Around 18 people were killed in the collision, according to the Ministry of Health. Unconfirmed reports put the death toll at around 25. Independent MPs have demanded an urgent meeting of the parliament, which is still on a summer recess, to investigate the accident.
Minister of Transport Mohammad Lutfi Mansour, already under fire for a list of other accidents over recent years, yesterday referred a number of rail officials to questioning. Initial investigations into the Saturday collision revealed that the area where the accident occurred had no functioning signals.
"Although tragic, this accident came as no surprise to me," said Mustafa Hamad, a government employee who uses the train daily to shuttle between his workplace in Cairo and his hometown in Menufia, some 70km to the north.
"In the aftermath of every accident, officials come out to pledge substantial improvements into the rail service. The only thing they have recently done was to hike up fares," he said.
In February 2002, at least 360 poor passengers were burnt to death when a blaze gutted a train bound to the Upper Egyptian train of Assiut. The mishap was later blamed on a small stove used by a passenger on board.
Four years later, 51 passengers died in a train crash in Qaliub, some 20km north of Cairo. The accidents prompted the Egyptian government to pledge more money to overhaul the rail service.
An Egyptian police official says a passenger train collided with the back of a second one ahead of it on the tracks just outside of Cairo, destroying several passenger cars and killing at least 25 people.
The official says at least 55 others were wounded in the accident, which occurred in Girzah district of 6th of October province. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The official said emergency teams are still searching mangled wreckage for victims. Egypt has a poor railway safety record on its railways with several fatal accidents each year, usually blamed on poorly maintained equipment.
- December 1995: About 75 people were killed in a train collision near Cairo.
- October 1998: Forty-seven passengers died in a train crash around 30km south of Alexandria.
- February 2002: At least 360 passengers were burnt to death when a train, crowded with poor passengers, was destroyed by a major fire.
- September 2006: Five people were killed when a train moving from the Delta town of Mansoura rammed into another.