Egypt's railway authority chief resigns over fatal crash

CAIRO — Egypt's transport minister said Sunday that he has accepted the railway authority chief's resignation over a deadly train crash near the coastal city of Alexandria that killed 43 people and injured scores.

Hesham Arafat announced at a news conference after meeting the prime minister Sunday that he had accepted Medhat Shousha's resignation.

The crash took place on Friday when a train coming from Cairo, Egypt's capital, crashed into the rear of another that was waiting at a small station in the district of Khorshid, just east of Alexandria. The stationary train had just arrived from Port Said, a Mediterranean city on the northern tip of the Suez Canal, when it was hit.

Also Sunday, Egypt's prosecution ordered the detention of four people including two train drivers for 15 days over the crash, judicial officials said

Prosecutors ordered the drivers of the Cairo train, his assistant, the driver of the Port Said train and an observation tower lookout to be detained for 15 days pending investigation and accused them of manslaughter and negligence.

They also requested blood and urine samples from the Cairo driver to test for drugs.

The officials requested anonymity as they were not authorized to brief reporters.

The state-run news agency MENA reported that the public prosecutor ordered the chairman of Egypt's Railway Authority and nine other officials to be summoned for interrogation over the accident.

In a meeting with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Saturday, Transport Minister Hesham Arafat blamed the accident on human error, against a background of heavy reliance on manual operations, and the railway system's poorly maintained infrastructure.

Egypt's railway system has a poor safety record and accidents due to negligence have killed scores over the years.

Figures recently released by the state's statistics agency show that 1,249 train accidents took place last year, the highest number since 2009 when the figure was 1,577.

Friday's accident was the deadliest since 2006, when at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo. In 2002, a massive fire engulfed a train filled with local holiday travelers. That train sped for miles, with flames engulfing one carriage after another, killing more than 370 people.

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