By Cynthia Johnston
CAIRO (Reuters) – Two Egyptian passenger trains collided on Saturday south of Cairo, killing at least 15 people and leaving passengers trapped in wreckage, security sources said.
A first class train, filled with passengers, rammed into a mostly empty stationary train on the same track, the sources said. At least two carriages were destroyed.
“Rescue teams have extracted 15 dead and 24 wounded in a collision of two trains,” state news agency MENA reported. “The dead and wounded have been taken to hospitals.”
Security sources said they believed the death toll could rise as rescue and recovery operations continued. One source put the probable death toll as high as 23, but others said no more than 15 bodies had been recovered.
Al Jazeera television reported that at the time of the crash the stationary train had been waiting to switch to another track for maintenance after hitting a cow earlier in the day.
Security sources said the moving train was headed south from Cairo toward Assiut and Aswan, a major tourist attraction that is home to pharaonic ruins. No foreigners were reported among the casualties.
A series of road and rail accidents in Egypt in recent years has triggered an outcry over the government’s handling of transport safety.
Saturday’s accident took place in al-Ayyat, which in 2002 was the scene of Egypt’s worst rail disaster when fire ripped through seven carriages of an overcrowded passenger train, killing at least 360 people.
A train crash in northern Egypt killed 44 people in 2008, two years after a crash that killed 58 people.