Train Slams Into School Bus in Egypt, Killing 48 Children, Injuring 27 Others

CAIRO - Fifty people, mostly children, were killed when a train slammed into a school bus as it crossed the tracks at a rail crossing some 300 kilometers south of Cairo yesterday, further inflaming public anger at Egypt's shoddy transport network.

Witnesses said barriers at the crossing were open when the train hit the bus. Transport Minister Mohamed Rashad and the head of the railways authority resigned, and President Mohammed Morsi said those responsible would be held to account.

The bus was split in two by the force of the crash, with blood spattered on the front of the engine. Schoolbags and textbooks, some bloodstained, were strewn around.

All but two of the dead were children, aged around 4 to 8, a senior security official said in Assiut, near the crash site. One woman and the bus driver also died, he said.

Egypt's roads and railways have a poor safety record and Egyptians have long complained that successive governments have failed to enforce even basic safeguards.

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil traveled to the area to review the situation. But devastated and angry people in one village, from where the children had been picked up to travel to school, said they would bar entry to any visiting officials.

"We won't accept any officials in the village. They only want to come to appear in the media," said Alaa Ahmed from al-Hawatka, where some children killed on the bus came from. They were traveling to a school near Manfalut, south of Cairo.

Some victims' families protested at the crash site. Many other Egyptians across the nation were also shocked and angered.

"It is so shameful and a big disgrace to this government. All of its members, and not only one minister, should quit. That is what I know would happen in any decent country," said Mona Ahmed, a 60-year-old mother of three, in Cairo.

State media reported that another 15 or more people were injured. A medical source said as many as 28 were injured, 27 of them children.

"They told us the barriers were open when the bus crossed the tracks and the train collided with it," said Mohamed Samir, a doctor at Assiut hospital, where the injured were taken, citing witness accounts.

Assiut Governor Yahya Keshk said the crossing was open. "The crossing worker was asleep. He has been detained," he told state television.

The doctor said the bodies of many of those killed were severely mutilated, illustrating the force of the crash.

"I saw the train collide with the bus and push it about 1 kilometer along the track," said Ahmed Youssef, a driver.

Officials said the level of destruction and mutilation made it difficult to count and identify the bodies.

Morsi ordered his ministers to offer support to the families of those killed, the official news agency said.

Egypt's worst train disaster was in 2002, when a fire ripped through seven carriages of an overcrowded passenger train, killing 363 people.