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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

 Egypt train crash toll hits 41 as cranes clear busy link

Under floodlights, rescue teams combed wrecked carriages all night for casualties,even using the torches on their mobile phones.

An Egyptian man and a boy survey the wreckage of two trains which collided near Khorshid on the outskirts of Alexandria the previous day, August 11. The death toll has risen to 41, but is likely to rise. Khaled Desouki / AFP
An Egyptian man and a boy survey the wreckage of two trains which collided near Khorshid on the outskirts of Alexandria the previous day, August 11. The death toll has risen to 41, but is likely to rise. Khaled Desouki / AFP

The death toll from Egypt's latest train disaster rose to 41 as cranes worked through Saturday to clear the stricken railway line between Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Under floodlights and even the torches from their mobile phones, rescue teams had combed wrecked carriages all night for casualties.

The accident happened on Friday when two trains collided in farmland near Alexandria. As well as the 41 who died, 132 people were injured, with 79 being discharged after treatment while 53 remained in hospital on Saturday, said health minister Ahmed Emad el-Din Rady.

The injured were stretched out on the round in a field beside the railway tracks as they waited for a stream of ambulances to ferry them to Alexandria hospitals.

Workers used cranes to lift four knotted sheet-metal carriages blocking the normally busy Cairo-Alexandria line. On state television, transport ministry officials said e said the crash 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.

One train was travelling from Cairo to Alexandria from Cairo and the other was coming from Port Said.

President Abdel Fattah Al 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 ploughed into a bus carrying schoolchildren in November 2012, killing 47 people.That accident jolted the government into ordering an investigation. The transport minister and the head of the railway authority were both sacked. 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 ploughed into their bus and a lorry 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 the heavily-used rail network.

In July 2008, at least 44 people died near Marsa Matruh in northwestern Egypt when a runaway lorry hurtled into a bus, another 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 travelling 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 Cairo.

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