Friday, November 24, 2017

Egyptian train hits school bus, killing 51

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ASSIUT, Egypt — A speeding train that crashed into a bus carrying Egyptian children to their kindergarten on Saturday killed 51 and prompted a wave of anger against a government under mounting pressure to rectify the former regime's legacy of neglect.

The crash, which killed children between 4 and 6 years old and three adults, led to local protests and accusations from outraged Egyptians that President Mohammed Morsi is failing to deliver on the demands of last year's uprising for basic rights, dignity and social justice.

The accident left behind a mangled shell of a bus twisted underneath the train outside Assiut, some 200 miles south of Cairo. A witness said the train pushed the bus along the tracks for nearly half a mile.

Um Ibrahim, a mother whose three children were on the bus, pulled her hair in grief. "My children! I didn't feed you before you left," she wailed in horror.

As one man picked up pieces of shattered limbs he screamed: "Only God can help!"

More than a dozen injured children, many with severed limbs, were being treated in two different facilities.

Several hours after the accident, Morsi appeared on state television, promising an investigation and financial compensation for victims' families. His transport minister and the head of Egypt's railways resigned.

"Those responsible for this accident will be held accountable," Morsi said.

The response, his critics say, is too little too late. For months, transport workers have been complaining about poor management and poor working conditions. Saturday's accident falls exactly one week after two trains collided south of Cairo, killing four people.

While many train accidents in Egypt are blamed on an outdated system that relies heavily on switch operators instead of automated signaling, the high death toll and fact that nearly all those killed were children will likely give ammunition to Morsi's critics who say he has done little to help ordinary Egyptians.

Opposition activists have accused Morsi of continuing the mistakes of his predecessor by not overhauling government services. They say he is too focused on foreign policy.

A day before Saturday's accident, the president positioned Egypt as a new Arab champion for the Palestinians. But with more children killed in Saturday's accident than by Israeli bombs in the Gaza Strip since an escalation in fighting last week, he is already being called on to refocus efforts at home.

"The blood of people in Assiut is more important than Gaza," said Sheik Mohammed Hassan, a village elder speaking at the scene of the accident.

Crowds heckled Prime Minister Hesham Kandil when he arrived, surrounded by riot police, at a main hospital treating some of the injured.

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