Twenty people were killed and 45 others injured, some critically, on Wednesday morning in a train crash in Cairo’s Ramses Railway Station, according to Egypt’s Health Minister Hala Zayed.
The train entered the station — Cairo’s main railway station, located in the heart of the capital — at high speed and collided into a concrete buffer stop at the end of the line on Platform 6, causing the fuel tank to explode and triggering a fire that quickly spread to other parts of the station, according to eyewitnesses.
The death toll is comprised of 14 men, four women and two children, according to statements made by the spokesperson for the Ministry of Health Khaled Megahed.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, the Public Prosecution confirmed the arrest and interrogation of the conductor of the railcar that crashed.
The statement explained that the conductor had left the railcar he was driving due to an altercation with another railcar conductor and had not followed proper procedures, which required him to set the brake before exiting the railcar. Without the brakes on, the railcar began moving forward without the driver, picking up speed before crashing into the concrete buffer stop.
In an initial statement made on Wednesday morning, the health minister said the injured were transferred to nearby hospitals, including the Nasser Institute, Dar al-Shifa and Cairo’s Railway Hospital.
Fifteen of the 45 people injured have been discharged from hospitals, Zayed later told press outlets on Wednesday afternoon. Most of the wounded had sustained burns and broken bones, the minister said, adding that some were in critical condition.
In a statement, Egypt’s Cabinet announced that LE80,000 compensation would be provided for every case of death or severe disability, and LE25,000 in cases of injury.
In the aftermath of the crash, various state bodies have announced that they would take urgent action. Prime Minister Mostafa Madbuly ordered the formation of a committee to investigate the cause of the accident headed by the deputy chief of the Railway Maintenance and Technical Support Department, Sami Afify, comprised of seven senior officials from the department.
The prime minister also accepted the resignation of Transport Minister Hesham Arafat on Wednesday afternoon, several hours after the incident. Before submitting his resignation, Arafat had ordered the formation of a committee of structural engineering professors at Cairo University to prepare a technical report on the safety of the building adjacent to Platform 6.
Meanwhile, Administrative Prosecution Authority head Amany al-Rifai ordered the prosecution’s technical office to begin investigations and Attorney General Nabil Sadiq ordered a team to investigate the incident as well.
Immediately after news of the crash was reported, the head of Parliament’s Transport Committee, Mohamed Badawy, said the committee would hold an emergency meeting within 48 hours, and that it intended to summon Arafat, Egyptian Railway Authority head Ashraf Raslan, as well as the the head of the Ramses Railway Station, for questioning. MP Abdel Hamid Kamal had already submitted an urgent request to summon Arafat to the Parliament.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Egyptian Railway Authority announced the resumption of train traffic at all platforms except for Platform 6, after all rail activity had been halted immediately after the accident.
The same day as the fatal crash in Cairo, one person was killed and six injured in the Al-Alamein area of Egypt’s North Coast after a train collided with a car that was crossing the tracks in an area not intended for vehicles, according to sources with the Egyptian Railway Authority. Another fire occurred on a train on the Cairo-Alexandria railway line on Wednesday, though it was quickly contained and no injuries were sustained, the sources added.
Train accidents are increasingly common in Egypt, with the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents growing from 781 in 2013 to 1,793 in 2017, according to Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. However, this is the only accident to occur in Cairo’s Ramses Railway Station in recent years.
Mada Masr previously compiled a summary of the eight largest train accidents in Egypt between 2002 and 2017.