Tragedy: at least 350 die on burning train in Egypt

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 15:48:05 -0000

Egyptian train fire toll passes 350

BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/middle_east/newsid_1830000/183086
3.stm
Arabic: http://www.aljazeera.net/news/arabic/2002/2/2-20-5.htm
(disturbing images)

The train was carrying people home for an Islamic festival.

At least 350 people - many of them children - have died after the
crowded train they were travelling in was consumed by flames south of
Cairo. 
The death toll, earlier reported at 100, rose as rescuers, aided by
villagers, combed the wreckage for bodies. 
  
Many of the bodies found had been badly charred. Other victims died when
they jumped from the moving train. 

Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Obeid, who went to the scene of the fire,
said the fierce blaze was caused by a cooker used by a passenger to heat
food. 

Reports suggest the driver did not immediately realise that the train
was on fire and continued moving for seven kilometres (over four miles)
before stopping at the town of al-Ayatt. 

The draught coming from the open windows would have fanned the flames,
causing them to spread swiftly. 

"I thought I was going to die anyway, so I jumped" Said Fuad Amin,
survivor  

The BBC's Paul Wood, reporting from the scene of the disaster, says
security forces have been put on alert, in anticipation of an angry
reaction from relatives of the victims. 

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he was "deeply saddened" by the
disaster. 

A statement read out on state television said Mr Mubarak "presents his
condolences to the families of the victims and begs God to bring them
assistance". 

It said he had issued orders for a rapid investigation into the
circumstances of the accident, and for assistance to be provided to the
victims. 

Crammed cars 

Seven of the 11 carriages of the crowded train, which was travelling
from Cairo to Luxor in Upper Egypt, went up in flames about 70
kilometres (40 miles) south of Cairo. 

Many victims were trapped inside the train by iron bars on the windows. 


The train was full of people returning to their homes in southern Egypt
for the five-day Eid al-Adha festival, which celebrates the annual Hajj
pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. 

World train disasters  
India, Aug '99 - 286 die in collision in West Bengal 
Germany, June '98 - 100 die in rail crash near Hanover 
Egypt, Dec '95 - 75 killed in train crash south of Cairo 
Russia, June '89 - 400 killed when in a gas explosion under two trains
near the town of Ufa. 
India, '81 - 800 die when cyclone blows train into river in Bihar  
The train's carriages, designed to hold 150 people, were crammed with
about 300 passengers. 

Our correspondent says Egyptian trains are often filled beyond capacity
and there have been terrible accidents in the past. 

One survivor, speaking to the BBC, called it "a tunnel of death". 

Witnesses said that when the fire broke out, the electricity went out
and passengers, including dozens of children, were scrambling to escape
in darkness. 

Desperate passengers jumped out of windows and doors as the train was
moving in order to escape the flames and smoke. 

The rail line linking Cairo with southern Egypt has been closed
indefinitely. 

Rescue efforts 

Large numbers of police and fire-fighters were sent to the scene to pull
victims out of the carriages. 

Ambulances rushed dozens of injured people to three hospitals in the
region. 

Hours after the flames were extinguished, rescuers were still bringing
out stretchers. 

Villagers supplied blankets and food to the stranded passengers and
mosques opened their doors to the rescued. 

The dead are all believed to be Egyptians. 


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