two days before the Eid Al-Adha holiday, 373 people died when a train on its way from Cairo to
Luxor caught fire early Wednesday
by Tarek Atia
(cairolive.com, February 21, 2002)
straight to related links
The midnight train
from Cairo to Luxor was packed with thousands returning home for the
holidays. Nearly four hundred of them would not make it.
Just a short way
into the long journey -- about 50 kilometers from Cairo -- a fire broke
out near the back of the train, quickly engulfing seven cars in
It took fifteen
minutes for the driver to realize what was going on and stop the train.
People had been jumping out of the burning train as it continued on its
way. Some died that way. Others survived, and relayed the horrific scene
to the world.
The sight of the
seven cars -- charred skeletons of steel -- told the gruesome story
quite clearly: that most of the dead burned up with the train itself.
and sixty fire trucks rushed to the scene.
Three hundred and
seventy-three people had died, the worst accident in Egyptian railway
history. Investigators are searching for the cause of the fire. Was it
an electrical short that quickly spread, or did it start when a
passenger's "butagaz" stove suddenly exploded?
These are the
preliminary suspicions being reported at present. President Hosni
Mubarak has called for a thorough investigation of what went wrong. The
government, public and press anxiously await answers.
One certainty in the
case is that the train was clearly overcrowded. Whether that will be
just the tip of the iceberg remains to be seen.
Prime Minister Atef
Ebeid -- at the scene of the tragedy with Health Minister Isamil Sallam
-- said the injured would be receiving LE1000 each in immediate relief
funds. Families of the deceased, he said, will get LE3000.
been sent to Egypt from around the world.
receives outpouring of sympathy:
My heart goes out to all who
lost loved ones on the Cairo/Luxor train. No accident like this should
ever happen! I have traveled on frequent occasions on your trains (not
the tourist ones) and I would like to ask "why do you please not
look after the people of your country, as well as you take care of the
tourists?" No wonder so many direct their anger at us (tourists).
You have a beautiful country and beautiful people, I ask the powers that
be to please take better care of them. I know my sympathy will probably
not reach those that need it, that is the people that travel on 'these'
trains, but, I will say again how very very sad I am for them. I will
travel again soon with them inshallah.
Judith Smith writes:
Commiserations on the loss of lives today. This tragic event for your
countrymen is felt by people all over the world. From a tourist with a
love of your country.
Don Whiteside writes: My heart goes out to all the families and
relatives affected by this tragedy. Take great strength from your
heritage and those around you. You have a great country and great
UPDATED MARCH 4, 2002,
to related stories on the web
week after surviving the train fire, Abdel-Rahim Qenawi slipped under a
train, in a separate accident, "and was killed." Reuters
reports this tragic tale.
passenger stove started train fire, rebutting earlier electric
railway chief says overcrowding
cannot be controlled:
"There is no law that allows the authority to prevent any passenger
from getting into the car, everyone has the right to board and we cannot
object to that."
mass burial prayers
bodies identified; mass burial on Sunday..
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal donates
$830,000 to families of the dead.
of victim: "They
leave the trains of the poor ... looking like carts."
short-circuit was the main cause of the fire; carriages were not
equipped with fire alarms, extinguishers, or emergency brakes or
President Bush: "Laura
and I and all of the American people offer our deepest sympathy and
condolences to President Mubarak, the Egyptian people, and especially to
those families who have lost loved ones"
minister Ibrahim El-Demiery and the head of the state railways both
Hosni Mubarak discusses accountability on state television on Friday: "I
will not allow any effort to hide the truth or cover up any aspect of
what happened, because the calamity is great, the accident grave...
We have ordered competent authorities to conduct a complete
investigation to clearly determine responsibility and to hold
accountable anyone proved to have fallen short in their duties or who
were careless in providing safety."
and the Washington
Post look at conditions on third class rail.
Times speaks to Giza governor: "Asked whether he was upset at the
lack of fire exits, or the overcrowding, or the decision of the engineer
to keep going, he dismissed such concerns, although he said the
officials obviously cared because they had come to the scene.
Abu Leia finished speaking, an overcrowded third-class train passed by
on the southbound tracks. People were standing in the aisles and sitting
in the doorways."
Later, in the same story, a young man says, "The
government should have better safety measures on trains... They take
better care of tourists. We want them to take care of us too."
go to morgue to identify
page of opposition Al-Wafd,
quoted by AP: "Put
those responsible on trial whoever they are... This is more than gross
negligence. We need to know who was responsible and hang them in public
squares and curse them for what they have done to the helpless Egyptian
forces on alert
"I don't know how I can live with all this death"
AP quotes the Prosecutor general as saying that if his 25
investigators and 45 coroners determined "there
was any kind of negligence... the punishment will be severe."
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