Train collides with tractor: two injured
CAIRO: The national rail chief has been sacked over a train crash that left 58 people dead, officials said Tuesday, as the press lashed out at the government over the latest transport disaster. Transport Minister Mohammed Mansour announced that Hanafy Abdel-Qawi had been fired and his deputy Eid Mahran suspended pending an investigation into Monday s disaster, a security source told AFP. At least 58 people were killed and 144 injured when a passenger train slammed into the back of another using the same track in the town of Qaliub, just north of Cairo, derailing carriages and setting one train ablaze.
On Tuesday, a sleeper train collided with a tractor south of Cairo.
The collision, in the town of Beni Suef 100 km south of Cairo, derailed two carriages and caused panic among passengers. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told reporters during a hospital visit to see some of the injured Monday that an inquiry had been launched and results would be known within 48 hours.
Tuesday s collision occurred shortly after Egypt appointed a new head of the state railway authority. Those responsible will be held truly accountable, he said. Mansour also said a technical committee would be formed to study the causes of the crash and to prevent such accidents in the future, the official MENA agency reported. Monday s crash was just the latest in a series of transport disasters in Egypt, most of which have been blamed on negligence and poor maintenance. The country s deadliest rail disaster occurred in February 2002, when a passenger using a stove set ablaze a train heading to the south, killing at least 361. The lack of emergency exits resulted in most passengers being trapped inside the burning carriages. On February 3, a ferry sank in the middle of the Red Sea, killing about 1,000 people in one of the worst maritime tragedies in recent years. Shipowner Mamdouh Ismail, a government-appointed member of the upper house and the ruling National Democratic Party of President Hosni Mubarak, fled the country. He was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in March, his assets were frozen a month later and he was made to pay compensation to the families of victims. The fact that Ismail, who is believed to have close ties with the presidency, was allowed to flee the country had fueled accusations that the state was involved at the highest level. Monday s crash further inflamed the press and public opinion. The state is collapsing, and corruption and ruin is creeping into it, said Gamal Badawi in the opposition Al-Wafd daily. Who is going to bear the responsibility of the blood that was spilled in Qaliub station? And whose turn will it be next, when new victims will die under the wheels of decaying trains and twisted rails and equipment which does not work? The Qaliub crash has opened the file of disasters for the thousandth time, and no authority is accountable, and there is no end to the reasons [for the crash], columnist Nabil Rashwan said in the independent daily Nahdet Masr. The disasters happen again here and the same scenario will take place. We have lost more Egyptians in train disasters than we lost in all our wars with Israel. What is the price the officials will pay for the victims? Abdallah Kamal of the Rose Al-Yusef daily predicted that government investigations would fail to address the true issues or condemn the real culprits. After the blood dries and the files of the technical and criminal and forensic investigations begin to pile up… the whole issue will be forgotten, he said. Since last February there have been three major train crashes in Egypt, the most populous country in the Middle East where transport has a reputation of being dangerous. About 6,000 people die in road accidents each year. A report by the transport ministry said they were the second-highest cause of death in the country. Agencies