Cairo: The last time Bishui Kamel talked to his family in the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan was at 9 in the morning on Wednesday.
Kamel in his twenties had just got off a passenger train on a journey from his homeland at Cairo’s main rail station to attend a medical conference in the Egyptian capital.
Forty minutes later, he was among more than 20 people burnt to death in a train blaze at the station, Egypt’s biggest rail destination.
On learning about the tragedy from social media, Kamel’s family tried repeatedly to call him on his cellphone.
But it was all in vain.
Worried, his brother-in-law, Kurlus, rushed to Cairo in search of him.
Scurrying from one hospital to another, Kurlus and other family members frantically waited for a word on him.
“The last stop was at the Shubra Hospital [in north Cairo]. After long hours of wait, the hospital told us that he died in the accident and that his body was kept in the hospital morgue,” Kurlus told a local television as his voice quavered with grief.
“Later, we were told to receive the body from the Zeinhum morgue [in south Cairo],” he added.
“His last call was with my sister Mariam, who is now in shock after his death,” Kurlus said.
Bishui and Mariam got engaged four months ago.
They were scheduled to get married at the end of the year.
Kamel’s father, an ex-school head in Aswan, fainted upon learning of his death.
“We just want the one responsible for negligence in the accident to be held accountable,” Kurlus said.
Kamel’s alma mater, the private October University for Modern Sciences and Arts, paid homage to him on its Facebook page.
Tributes also poured in from grief-stricken acquaintances, who gathered at his house in Aswan to offer condolences.
“He was not a mere friend,” said Wajih Bushra, a friend of Kamel. “He used to inquire after everyone. He never hesitated to help anyone in need,” Bushra.
“He was a young man at the onset of his career as a dentist,” Mohammad Sobhi, the head of Aswan’s Dentistry Syndicate said in media remarks.
“He was brilliant during his education years. He was also known among his colleagues for his good morals, cheerfulness and calmness,” Sobhi added.
Kamel’s body is expected to be buried in his hometown on Saturday.
Authorities blamed Wednesday’s tragedy on a driver of a single railcar, who got off to quarrel with a colleague, without putting on the handbrake in a workshop near Cairo’s main rail station.
The locomotive sped off for more than one kilometre and crashed into concrete barriers at the station platform, causing its fuel tank to explode into a major fire that swept across the place.
Several of the dead were burnt beyond recognition, prompting authorities to conduct DNA tests on their remains to identify them.
The driver is charged with negligence, manslaughter and harming public money. Prosecutors Thursday night ordered the driver along with other five rail employees remanded for four days pending further questioning.
Egypt has a long history of rail disasters.
The country’s worst rail tragedies was in 2002 when a passenger train heading from Cairo to Aswan caught fire, killing at least 350 people.