August 21, 2006

Egyptian train crash kills scores

By Aziz El-Kaissouni

QALYOUB, Egypt (Reuters) - A train crash killed scores of
people and injured more than twice as many on Monday in a Nile
Delta town north of Cairo, in the worst rail disaster in Egypt
since 2002.

Early casualty figures varied widely. A security source
said 80 people had died and 163 were injured, while the state
news agency MENA said 51 people were killed, and the pan-Arab
Al Jazeera satellite television news reported 65 dead.

There was no formal word on the cause of the crash, but an
official at the scene said an investigation was under way.

MENA said the accident happened early in the morning when a
train driver apparently ignored a signal and one commuter train
plowed into the rear of another.

"The first train was stopped. We looked and saw the other
train coming from behind, screeching," said Khalil Sheikh
Khalil, who had disembarked from a minibus nearby just before
the crash happened.

"We kept saying: 'Driver, driver, a train is coming.' So
the (train) driver moved up 15 meters, and while he was moving,
the two trains impacted," he told Reuters.

Khalil said the engine of the faster-moving train burst
into flames on impact. A Reuters photographer at the scene said
one of the trains had derailed and was lying on its side. It
had split into four parts and appeared to have burned.

The crash ripped seats from the train carriages, which were
littered with clothes and shoes. The carriages had been crushed
together like an accordion.

"A loud crash woke me from sleep. One of the trains had
derailed and people were scattered on the floor. I called the
authorities and they told me I was crazy," said Osama Abdul
Haleem, who lives near the crash site.

"I told them there are dead and dying there on the ground."


Rescue workers scrambled to evacuate the casualties,
loading them onto some two dozen ambulances. Blood was
spattered across the wreckage of both trains.

By midday, rescuers were still recovering bodies, using a
bulldozer to pull apart a metal side panel to reach a body
lodged in one of the carriages.

About 1,000 bystanders and passengers' relatives anxious
for news converged on the wreckage, which lay in a semi-rural
area about 20 km (12 miles) north of Cairo, sandwiched between
fields and apartment buildings.

Hundreds of Egyptian security troops linked arms to keep
the crowds at bay. Officials called on people over loudhailers
to give blood, and a queue formed in response.

The crash was the deadliest railway accident in Egypt since
about 360 were killed in 2002 when fire ripped through seven
carriages of a crowded passenger train.

That accident was the worst in 150 years of Egyptian rail
history and prompted the resignation of the transport minister
and the head of the state railway system.