Last evening, Monday 18 November, a funeral service was held at the Mar-Girgis (St George) church in Fayoum Bishopric for 27 Copts who had died at dawn that day as a train hit the bus and vehicle they were boarding to their hometown of Fayoum
The bishop of Fayoum, Anba Abra’am presided over the service which was also attended by Anba Saleeb, a number of the clergy and hundreds of the heart broken congregation. Amidst the wails and lamentations of the mourners, the coffins were placed inside the church next to one another, each holding a tag that denoted the name of the victim. Among these were nine children, three of them infants. Following the service, the coffins were taken for burial at Fayoum cemetery.
Home from a wedding party
The victims had been heading home to Fayoum at 2:00am after midnight from a wedding party they had attended in the Cairo suburb of Maadi. As the bus and vehicle they were boarding crossed the rails at Dahshour, some 40km south of Cairo, a cargo train that was coming at full speed hit the bus. Survivors say that the signal had allowed the bus to cross. “We saw no lights and heard no siren or signal,” several of them told the prosecutor who was investigating the incident. “And there was no person around, anywhere. A few other vehicles in front of us were crossing peacefully.” The collision caused the train to drag the bus forward for almost a kilometre, leaving 27 dead and some 30 injured, among them 15 children.
Entire families bereaved
Hours before the funeral saw the lifeless body of three-year old David lying along with other bodies in the morgue in Cairo. The sight was unbearably tragic; David’s small face was disfigured on account of his injury, and was covered with a blood and sand. He still lay in the embrace of his dead mother; they were only parted when each body had to be placed in a separate coffin. David’s brother, the 7-year-old Steven, had also lost his life; but their sister Verena, 13 lay in hospital terrorised, disfigured and seriously injured, risking the amputation of several limbs that had been crushed in the crash. The father, Emad Mahrous, had not been in Egypt; he was working in Dubai. Upon hearing of the crash and the fate of his children he rushed home, but too late for him to say a last farewell. He is devastated at the unspeakable loss, and asks everyone he sees to pray for his daughter Verena.
Salt into the wounds
In the Umm al-Misreyeen hospital in Giza, Watani met a number of the injured. As though salt was being rubbed into their wounds, most have to sustain the shock and grief of losing dear ones—in many cases almost the full family—and of other family members who lie in hospital beds, seriously injured. Karam Meawad, 30, who is sustaining a head and a leg injury, tearfully told us that he lost most of his family. Karam lost both his parents, his two sisters, his nephews and nieces as well as his uncle.
Samia Samir who lies along with her daughter in hospital told us what she can remember of that fateful night, “I was seated at the back of the bus with my son, Mina, and my mother. Mina asked for a drink of water, I leaned down to get him a bottle of water from my satchel when all hell broke loose. I felt a colossal thump, and that we were being dragged by the train for a considerable, seemingly unending distance. I was hurled on top of the train; I witnessed an unforgettable, nightmarish sight of carnage as pained screeches pierced my ears. Passersby helped me and my mother down. Most of my family lost their lives. Mina survived, but had to undergo surgery in his foot; I pray to God he would be well.”
The Dahshour accident is one in a long series of similar accidents that reek of gross negligence on the part of the State. The distressed families of the victims were vocal in their fury at the government whom they hold fully responsible for the accident.
The immediate compensations government is handing out to the families of the victims and the injured appears to add insult to injury. The Railways Authority is giving EGP15,000 to each family who lost members; EGP5,000 for the injured; and Giza governorate—to which Dahshour administratively belongs—will give EGP5,000 for each of the families of the victims and EGP2,000 for the injured.
The minister of transportation, Ibrahim al-Demeiry has given orders for a bridge to be erected over the rails in Dahshour area to avoid further disasters, even though railway traffic in this area is limited.
“How can the State neglect take no measures to secure the intersections? Are we supposed to believe that now, in the 21st century, there is no technology to control these crossings except through a lame iron chain that one employee might overlook to latch?” a distraught Sameh Ibrahim, Emad Mahrous’s cousin, lamented. “At the end of the day,” he said, “the innocent pay the price of official negligence in blood, and the government comes up with nothing but hollow words and lame compensation. The life of an Egyptian has been reduced to the equivalent of a few thousand pounds.” The tears welled in his eyes.
19 November 2013