One commuter train ignored a stop signal and slammed into another Monday, killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 140, authorities said.
The crash took place about 7 a.m. at the edge of a cornfield outside the town of Qalyoub, 12 miles north of Cairo. The trains were carrying commuters from the towns of Mansoura and Benha.
The train from Mansoura was going at least 50 mph when it sped through the stop signal before a crossing, police officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give statements to the media. The signal was still blaring Monday afternoon.
The Mansoura train’s driver was killed, and its locomotive overturned when it struck the other train, police said.
Civil defense, police and the military worked throughout the day to search for survivors and recover bodies in the crumpled and charred cars. By late afternoon, they used cranes to remove the twisted wreckage from the tracks and unblock the key rail route.
A man’s lifeless and bloodied forearm with a watch was visible emerging from a crushed car.
“I carried so many dead people, many of them were just body parts, my own clothes were soaked in blood,” said Raslan Abdel-Aziz, a mechanic with the military.
Most of the passengers were poor men between the ages of 20 and 50 who began their commute to Cairo as early as 4 a.m. In a country of 73 million people where nearly half live in poverty, cheap train service is the only way for many people to travel.
One of the injured, Zaki Abdullah, a 30-year-old police officer, said the trains were old.
“We fell on each other, and I couldn’t see anything,” Zaki Abdullah, a 30-year-old police officer, said from his bed at Qalyoub Hospital. “I struggled to find my way through the people to get out of the train.”
A fiery escape
Passenger Nasser Gafaar, 37, said it was difficult to escape the wreckage after the train car turned upside down.
“Flames from the other train were spreading. I fainted as soon as I managed to get out of the train,” said Gafaar, who had cuts on his head and bruises on his leg.
Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency quoted Minister of Health Hatem el-Gabaly as saying that at least 58 people were killed and more than 140 were wounded, four of them critically.
Residents of buildings overlooking the tracks gave water to survivors and sheets to cover the dead.
Egypt has a history of serious train accidents, usually blamed on poorly maintained equipment. Many of those incidents have occurred in the Nile Delta.
Forty-five people were injured in the most recent train accident, in May, when two trains crashed at a Nile Delta train station. Egypt’s worst train disaster, in February 2002, killed 363 people, many of them headed home to the country’s south for the Islamic calendar’s most important holiday.