By Mohammed Abu Zaid
Thirty-two people were killed and 165 injured when two trains collided in southern Egypt on Friday, the Health Ministry announced.
According to Egypt’s railway authorities, the accident happened when “unknown individuals” activated the emergency brakes of a passenger train heading to the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. Once that train had stopped, it was struck from behind by another train.
“The trains collided while going at not very high speeds, which led to the destruction of two carriages and (caused) a third to overturn,” a security source told Reuters. The two trains involved were the number 157 and the number 2011.
The collision occurred near Al-Sawamiah village in Sohag province in Upper Egypt — 460 km from Cairo. Videos from the scene show the wrecked carriages with passengers trapped inside and surrounded by rubble. Bystanders carried bodies and laid them out on the ground near the site, AP reported.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly set up a crisis room at the Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center to monitor the situation, and to facilitate coordination between the concerned ministries and departments. He later visited the scene along with five ministers.
The public prosecutor ordered an urgent investigation. The train drivers have been taken in for questioning and a separate probe has been ordered by Transport Minister Kamel Al-Wazir. A security source said further details will be announced once the cause of the accident is confirmed.
Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mujahid said that, immediately after the incident, 36 ambulances had been dispatched to transport the injured to hospitals.
He added that the ministry has set up a crisis and emergency room in Sohag to ensure that the injured are taken care of and that there is no shortage of medical supplies.
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman extended their condolences to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for the victims of the train crash.
Images captured by local media showed buckled train carriages derailed above a river.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi wrote on Twitter that he was monitoring the situation closely and that anyone responsible for the crash would be held to account.
“Anyone who caused this painful accident through negligence or corruption, or anything similar, must receive a deterrent punishment without exception or delay,” he tweeted.
“I have directed the prime minister and all agencies concerned to be present at the site of the accident, to continuously follow up, and to inform me of all developments and reports related to the situation … I extend my full condolences to the families of the victims,” he added.
Saudi Arabia expressed deep sorrow over the train accident.
A foreign ministry statement expressed the Kingdom’s sincere condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and to the Egyptian people and government, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.
In March last year, at least 13 people were injured when two passenger trains collided in Cairo, triggering a brief suspension of rail services nationwide.
At the time rail managers blamed the crash on signals not functioning in bad weather.
And in February 2019, a train derailed and caught fire at Cairo’s main railway station, killing at least 22 people and injuring 41, and prompting the transport minister, Hisham Arafat, to resign.