A deadly train crash in Egypt that killed 19 military conscripts on Tuesday (January 16th) has spurred public condemnation and promises from authorities to address the country's crumbling infrastructure.
The train crash occurred when a military transport train carrying around 1,300 Central Security Forces conscripts derailed in Badrashin, Giza province.
The conscripts had departed late Monday from the city of Assiut and were en route to a training camp in Cairo when their 12-car transport derailed, then collided with a parked cargo train at al-Hawamdia railway crossing, overturning two of the military's train cars, according to the Ministry of Health.
More than 120 people were injured in the accident, with some in critical condition, the ministry said. The wounded were transferred to a number of nearby hospitals and the military hospital in Cairo.
Inside al-Hawamdia hospital, everyone grieved for the victims of the train crash. Some wept, some donated blood for the injured and others expressed frustration that the accident occurred in the first place.
Eyewitness Sayed Mahmoud said the cargo train was stationary at the time of impact. He and other citizens flocked to the scene to help after seeing the last car of the train derail in the collision.
"I rushed with the townspeople and we opened the mosque and nearby homes to aid the injured, who were in a state of shock from the accident," he told Al-Shorfa.
Waleed Nasser, who suffered a broken left foot and several bruises in the crash, said he and other conscripts were startled by violent jolts just before their train collided with the stationary cargo engine.
Mahmoud Attiya, a 20-year-old conscript who also was aboard the transport train, told Al-Shorfa, "I saw them die and I could not do anything. It is a shame that Egyptian soldiers died because of negligence."
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said the government will not delay in providing care to the injured and the families of the victims.
"What I saw and observed confirms that it is a painful day for every Egyptian," the president said. "These are our sons who were on their way to perform a great duty for their country."
Prime Minister Dr. Hisham Qandil, who surveyed the accident site and visited the injured at the military hospital, announced that the government will pay the family of each deceased conscript 30,000 pounds ($4,560) and will treat all the injured at the government's expense.
Meanwhile, officials are investigating the deadly incident, with Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah forming an investigation team to determine culpability and Badrashin prosecutors charging the train driver with manslaughter and detaining him pending an official inquiry.
Investigative authorities also formed a technical committee to examine the train and its cars to determine the cause of the accident.
Several politicians are condemning the latest train accident.
Ahmed Darraj, a member of the opposition National Salvation Front, said the railway system in Egypt is one of the issues that require an urgent government solution by the Egyptian government.
"The former regime neglected [the railway system] for more than 30 years, and it now requires urgent attention by the government because the smallest incident results in the death of many Egyptians," he said.
Dr. Saad al-Katatni, head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said, "Recurrence of train accidents is tragic evidence of an almost complete collapse in Egypt's infrastructure, through years of corruption under [former President] Mubarak's rule."
This latest accident is a wake-up call "reminding us all of the need to overcome political differences and co-operate to rebuild Egypt. There certainly is no more time to waste", he said.
This latest accident follows another last November, when more than 51 people, most of them school-children from a primary school supervised by Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, were killed after a train collided with their school bus at a railway crossing in Assiut province.