Egypt train crash toll hits 41 as drivers questioned

People observe the wreckage of Friday’s fatal train collision on the outskirts of Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria from the day before. (AFP)
Updated 12 August 2017

Egypt train crash toll hits 41 as drivers questioned

ALEXANDRIA: The death toll from Egypt’s latest train disaster rose to 41 on Saturday as two drivers were questioned and cranes worked to clear the stricken railway line between Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
The drivers of the two trains that collided on Friday have been held for questioning and four railway officials suspended pending the results of a probe into its causes, Transportation Minister Hisham Arafat told an Egyptian broadcaster.
Under floodlights, rescue teams had combed wrecked carriages all night for casualties.
Transport ministry officials, quoted on state television, have said the crash in farmland on the outskirts of Alexandria was probably caused by a malfunction in one train that brought it to a halt.
The other train then crashed into it.
Arafat had told reporters at the scene of the accident that it was not yet clear why the train had stopped, but suggested old traffic signals were to blame.
“We have a big problem we had already announced, which is old traffic signals. We are completely overhauling them. This section here is being developed,” he said.
An injured passenger who was on the stationary train said its departure had been delayed and that it kept stopping en route.
“It stopped every now and then between stations or before stations for five minutes, I don’t know why,” the man told Dream television station from his hospital bed.
“Everyone was scattered (by the collision), bodies were flung around,” he said.
The toll from Friday’s accident when the two trains collided near Alexandria rose to 41 dead, the health ministry said on Saturday.
The accident also wounded 132 people, with 79 being discharged after treatment while 53 remained in hospital on Saturday, Health Minister Ahmed Emad El-Din Rady said.
A stream of ambulances had ferried the injured, stretched out on the ground in a field alongside the railway tracks, to Alexandria hospitals.
Workers used cranes to lift four knotted sheet-metal carriages blocking the normally busy Cairo-Alexandria line.
One train had been heading to Alexandria from Cairo and the other from Port Said, east along the coast.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has sent his condolences to the victims’ families and ordered a probe to “hold accountable” those responsible for the disaster.
It was the deadliest train accident in the North African country since a train plowed into a bus carrying schoolchildren in November 2012, killing 47 people.
That accident jolted the government which ordered an investigation and sacked the transport minister and the head of the railway authority.
The accident was blamed on a train signal operator who fell asleep on the job.
The probe, however, did not prevent further accidents. Just months later, a train carrying military conscripts derailed, killing 17 people.
Around a year later, a collision between a train and a bus killed 27 people south of the capital.
They had been returning from a wedding when the train plowed into their bus and a truck at a railway crossing.
Egyptians have long complained that the government has failed to deal with chronic transport problems, with roads as poorly maintained as railway lines.
There have been many other fatal crashes on Egypt’s heavily-used rail network.
In July 2008, at least 44 people died near Marsa Matruh in northwestern Egypt when a runaway truck hurtled into a bus, a lorry and several cars waiting at a level crossing, shunting the vehicles into the path of a train.
At least 58 Egyptians were killed and 144 injured in August 2006 in a collision between two trains traveling on the same track.
In the wake of that crash, a court sentenced 14 railway employees to one year in prison for neglect.
The deadliest accident on Egypt’s railways dates back to 2002 when 373 people died as a fire ripped through a crowded train south of the capital.


Turkey irked over joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

Updated 23 October 2020

Turkey irked over joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

  • The joint statement also asked Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to enter negotiations for an agreement on maritime delimitations

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday slammed a joint statement by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt that condemns Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and numerous “provocations” that they maintain are threatening regional peace.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “fully rejected the declaration containing baseless accusations and allegations.”
During a trilateral regional summit on Wednesday in Nicosia, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged Ankara to end its “aggressive” actions.
The joint statement also asked Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to enter negotiations for an agreement on maritime delimitations. Greece and Cyprus have signed maritime border agreements with Egypt while dismissing a similar deal that Ankara signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government as “legally invalid.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the declaration attacked Ankara rather than supporting peace and stability in the region. It repeated Turkey’s position that cooperation could only take place with the inclusion of Turkish Cypriots in governing and sharing the resources of the ethnically divided island nation.
“We will continue with determination to protect our rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean,” the ministry statement said.
The trilateral summit took place amid high tensions between nominal NATO allies Greece and Turkey over maritime borders and energy rights.
In late summer, Turkey dispatched a research vessel escorted by warships to conduct seismic research in a part of the Mediterranean Sea that Greece claims as its territory, which prompted the Greek government to deploy its own warships.
Turkey pulled the research ship back to shore for several weeks for maintenance and to allow time for diplomacy but redeployed the Oruc Reis on a new energy exploration mission. A maritime announcement by Turkey says the Oruc Reis and two other ships would continue working in the area until Oct. 27.
Turkey also has had ships prospecting for oil and gas reserves in waters that Cyprus claims as its exclusive economic zone.