Train Collision in Egypt Kills at Least 32 People

At least 32 people are dead and 160 injured after two trains collided in southern Egypt on Friday, according to The New York Times

A spokesperson for the Egyptian National Railways reportedly said someone pulled the emergency brake on the cars of one train, causing the train behind to rear-end the carriage and overturn two passenger cars near the city of Sohag on the west bank of the Nile River. 

"The [railway] service has been neglected for decades to an extent that made it quite outdated and extremely dangerous," Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly told reporters, according to the Associated Press. "We have spent billions to upgrade the railway but we still have a long way to go in order to complete all the required work."

A video posted online by one of the passengers shows the chaos and confusion following the crash. "Save us! We can't get the people out," one person can be heard saying in the footage, according to the Times

Ambulances rushed to the scene from Cairo, Egypt's capital city, which is about a six hour drive from Sohag. Images shared online show crowds of people gathering and climbing on top of the overturned cars. 

Egypt's President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, tweeted his condolences to the victims' families and his resolve to start a speedy investigation of the incident.

"The pain in our hearts today will only increase our determination to put an end to this type of disaster," he wrote, according to a Times translation, adding that he would bring forth consequences for those responsible.

Egypt has a long, tragic history of train disasters. According to CNN, the country's aging railway system has seen a deadly accident almost every year for the past 20 years.

In 2019, at least 20 people were killed after a train crashed at Cairo's main rail station, and a year earlier, a train collision in the Nile Delta north of Cairo killed at least 12 people, the Times reported. The deadliest incident, however, occurred in 2002 when a fire broke out on a train heading to Cairo from southern Egypt, killing more than 300 passengers. 

Friday's deadly collision comes as Egypt is dealing with another crisis: a 1,300-foot container ship is stuck in the Suez Canal, causing a days-long traffic jam of more than 100 vessels on the critical waterway and disrupting global trade. 

Salvatore R. Mercogliano, a former merchant mariner, told the Associated Press earlier this week that "the closing of the canal means no vessels are transiting north and south."

"Every day the canal is closed … container ships and tankers are not delivering food, fuel and manufactured goods to Europe and goods are not being exported from Europe to the Far East," he explained.

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