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Egypt fires rail authority chief after string of deadly accidents

Country in uproar over mismanagement of dilapidated train lines, following deadly crash that killed 11

People gather at the site where a passenger train derailed killing at least 11 people and injuring at least 98 others, near Banha, Qalyubia province, Egypt. (AP Photo/Tarek Wagih, File)
People gather at the site where a passenger train derailed killing at least 11 people and injuring at least 98 others, near Banha, Qalyubia province, Egypt. (AP Photo/Tarek Wagih, File)

CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt’s railways chief was fired Tuesday following a string of deadly train disasters, two days after the latest accident that cost 11 lives.

“The goal of these decisions is not merely about leadership changes of the authority but are in line with the next stage which demands… a complete upgrade of the railway network,” the transportation ministry said.

The changes “underway aim to provide better services, working around the clock to serve commuters and to upgrade… this essential service which transports millions of passengers yearly,” it said in a statement.

Transport Minister Kamel el-Wazir’s shuffle of 10 top officials in Egypt’s embattled railways authority, including its head Ashraf Raslan, follows an uproar in the Arab world’s most populous country over mismanagement of dilapidated train lines.

Calls on social media have urged the minister himself to step down but he has stood firm.

Egyptian rail accidents are mostly blamed on poor infrastructure and maintenance.

On Sunday, 11 people were killed and scores injured in a farming town in the fertile Nile Delta outside the capital when four train carriages came off the tracks.

Egyptians gather around mangled train carriages at the scene of a train accident in Sohag, Egypt on Friday, March 26, 2021. (AP Photo)

Last month, at least 20 people died and nearly 200 were injured in a crash in southern Egypt, according to the latest official toll, which authorities have revised several times.

Fifteen people were also injured earlier this month when two train carriages derailed near Minya al-Qamh, north of Cairo.

Wazir, a former general, was named transport minister after a 2019 train collision that was blamed on human error.

“We have a problem with the human element,” he said last month on a television talk show, pledging to set up an automated network by 2024.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has vowed to hold to account those responsible for the recurrent deadly accidents on Egypt’s railways in recent years.

One of the deadliest came in 2002 when a fire ripped through a crowded train south of the capital, killing 373 people.

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