Egypt train crash: Death toll rises to 49 children

Distraught relatives search for signs of their loved ones in the wreckage of today's crash.

A speeding train has crashed into a bus carrying children to their creche in southern Egypt, killing at least 49, officials said.

Distraught families searched for signs of their loved ones along the tracks and angry villagers berated officials in the aftermath of the latest disaster to hit the country’s railway system.

The bus was carrying more than 50 children aged four to six when it was hit near al-Mandara village in Manfaloot district in the province of Assiut, a security official said. He said it appeared that the level crossing was not closed as the train sped toward it.

Egypt’s railway system has a poor safety record, mostly blamed on decades of badly maintained equipment and poor management.

Books, school bags and children’s socks were strewn along the tracks. Parents of the missing looked frantically for signs of their children.

One witness said the train pushed the bus along the tracks for nearly half a mile

Accidents traced to negligence regularly left scores dead during the rule of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who was accused of valuing loyalty over competence in many appointments of senior officials. Widespread corruption under his three decades in power has also been blamed for the underfunding of government services, particularly in poor provinces outside Cairo.

The railway’s worst disaster took place in February 2002 when a train in its way to southern Egypt caught fire, killing 363 people. Media reports quoted official statistics saying that the rail and road accidents claimed more than 7,000 lives in 2010.

This is the worst such tragedy since the country’s first freely elected president Mohammed Morsi took office this summer.Transport minister Mohammed el-Meteeni resigned in the wake of the crash, the state news agency reported, but some activists have accused Mr Morsi of continuing the mistakes of his predecessor.

Mr Morsi said in a short televised address from his office that he had tasked the state prosecutor with investigating the crash. “Those responsible for this accident will be held accountable,” he said.

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