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Deadly fire after train crashes at Cairo’s main station

Khaled Desouki, AFP | Security forces and onlookers gather at the scene of a fiery train crash at the Egyptian capital Cairo's main Ramses railway station on February 27, 2019

At least 20 people were killed and 50 injured when a locomotive smashed into a barrier at Cairo’s main train station on Wednesday, causing an explosion and a fire, state television and witnesses said.

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The train engine appeared to have slammed into the buffers at the end of the track at high speed, sparking a major blaze that blackened the walls of the Ramses station. Inside the station, the train’s engine could be seen tilted to one side next to a platform.

Several witnesses said they had seen fire coming out of the train’s engine before it crashed. Security sources said there was no indication that the crash was deliberate.

Eyewitness Ibrahim Hussein said: “I saw a man pointing from the locomotive as it entered the platform, and screaming, ‘There are no brakes, there are no brakes’ before he jumped out of the locomotive. And I don’t know what happened to him.”

“I was standing on the platform and I saw the train speed into the barrier ... Everyone started running but a lot of people died after the locomotive exploded," said another bystander, Mina Ghaly. "I saw at least nine corpses lying on the ground, charred.”

Ahmed Abdeltawab said the platform had been crowded with people waiting for another train.

“The fire overwhelmed them and they ran while they were on fire until they fell metres from incident,” he said. “The scene was terrifying.”

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi quickly called on his government to carry out an investigation.

Visiting the scene, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said that anyone found responsible would be held to account.

Transport minister quits

Just hours after the deadly train crash, the government announced that Egypt’s transport minister had handed in his resignation.

"Transport Minister Hisham Arafat submitted his resignation ... and the prime minister accepted," the cabinet said in a statement.

Egypt has one of the oldest and largest rail networks in the region and accidents causing casualties have been common. A train collision in Alexandria killed more than 40 people in 2017.

Egyptians have long complained that successive governments have failed to enforce basic safety standards for the railways.

Student Ali Ramadan said he had suffered burns and injured his foot when he ran into a concrete bench on the crowded platform.

“I don’t know when these train accidents will end ... They told us they got millions of dollars’ worth of new locomotives and trains, and people are still dying because of train accidents.”

The transport ministry suspended all arrivals and departures at the station after the incident.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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