Bus crash in Egypt kills 51 including dozens of children

A school bus in Egypt has collided with a train on a controlled crossing killing pre-school aged passengers on their way to nursery school.

The morning crash occurred near Manaflut around 190 miles (300km) south of Egypt’s capital, Cairo. The bus was taking children aged between 4 and 6 years old to a local nursery school when it crossed onto railway tracks at an open crossing gate. An approaching train hit the bus, crushing it and pushing the wreckage for nearly a kilometre along the track before coming to a standstill.

Most of the children died at the scene along with the driver and two other adult passengers. The others were taken to local hospitals where some subsequently lost their fight for life, bringing the death toll to 51.

In the wake of the accident, the country’s Minister of Transport submitted his resignation along with the head of the Egyptian railways. Mohammed Mursi, the President of Egypt ordered a full inquiry and pledged full support to the families of the victims.

Preliminary reports place the responsibility on the crossing operator who is said to have been asleep at his post at the time of the accident and had not closed the crossing gates. He has been arrested and is helping the police in their investigation.

Egypt has a poor safety record on both the railways and the roads, mainly due to lack of investment, poor maintenance and human error or poor judgement. Although it seems likely that the crossing attendant will be held responsible if it is shown that he fell asleep, the root cause of placing too much reliance on human frailties for public safety is likely to remain. Only by addressing the systematic failures can Egypt overcome its unenviable reputation for being the host nation to such devastating crashes on its roads.

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