CAIRO, (Xinhua): At least 27 people were killed and 32 others injured when a freight train crashed into a mini-bus and a truck near the Egyptian capital of Cairo in the early hours of Monday, the head of the Ambulance Authority said.
“All the victims had been cleared from the scene,” Ahmed el- Ansari told Xinhua, adding that the rescue teams remained at the scene for more search, but the death toll may increase as some cases are in serious conditions.
Previous report quoted a security source as saying that at least 29 people were killed in the accident.
The train was en route to Giza governorate from the southern city of Beni Suef when it hit a mini-bus, carrying passengers home from a wedding near the town of Dahshur, some 40 km south of Cairo.
“Initial reports said the drivers of the vehicles ignored warning lights and chains blocking entry to the crossing, and tried to cross the tracks,” Hussein Zakaria, the head of the Egyptian Railway Authority, told state-run Nile TV.
The train continued for almost 1 km before it stopped, he said.
Sixteen ambulances had rushed to the scene to transfer the victims to hospitals, he said, adding that the train driver and his assistants who survived the accident were detained.
However, state-run Ahram newspaper website quoted the crossing workers as saying “The warning and the red signals were broken,” adding that they attempted to use the chains for closing the track, but they failed as the train was coming with high speed.
Meanwhile, the train driver and his assistants asserted the crossing was open, and that they sent dozens of warning sirens, but no one responded, Ahram added.
“There were no employees at the crossing, and all the lights on both sides were completely off,” Nawal Hamdy, a 42-year-old housewife who lost four brothers in the accident, told Xinhua.
She said her husband is still missing, and two of her relatives are in serious conditions.
“There are 45 relatives of us in the mini-bus coming from the wedding party, and the accident happened when the truck coming from the opposite side crashed with the train at almost 1 a.m. local time (GMT 1100).”
Surprisingly, without any alert from the train or the workers in the crossing, the train hit the tuck, Magda Moris, 38, one of the victims in the same hospital told Xinhua, adding “We were coming from the wedding party in Helwan, heading to our home village in Faiyum.”
She added the mini-bus was slow because I asked the driver to be careful as darkness and high speed annoy my children, reiterating “It’s definitely the fault of the barrier’s workers who knew upon the trains’ schedule.”
The interim Prime Minister, mourned the victims and called for urgent investigations into the reasons and holding those responsible accountable.
The Giza governor, Ali Abdel Rahman, decided to pay 5,000 Egyptian pounds (about 725.6 U.S. dollars) to compensate the families of each dead case, and 2,000 pounds (about 290 dollars) for the injured.
Monday’s accident took place shortly after train services resumed completely across the country, after being halted over dispersing the two main camps of ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s supporters in Cairo and Giza amid-August.
Railway accidents pose persistent challenge for the Egyptian recurrent governments for its poor maintenance. Last November, a train collided with a school bus in southern Egypt leaving at least 50 children killed. The transportation minister announced his resignation shortly after the tragedy.
The worst accident in Egypt’s 150-year history of railway was caused by a fire in February 2002, leaving more than 300 people killed.