Last week two tragic accidents occured at the same spot of the Upper Egypt main agricultural road to Cairo, near Minya, some 250km south of Cairo. In the wee hours of dawn on Thursday, a cab carrying a family of four from Assuit to their hometown of Maghagha stumbled on a bump (sleeping policeman), lost balance and fell into Ibrahimiya Canal on the side of the road. The bump had only been built across the road the day before, following several accidents at the same spot, but no sign was posted to warn drivers nor was the bump painted with traffic paint. Mukhtar Ragab, 45; Sura Ragb, 55; Farha Mohamed 10; and the driver Islam Abdullah, lost their lives. Marwa Ibrahim, 25, was the only survivor.
Last Sunday a bus packed with passengers travelling along the same road plunged into the canal at the same spot, claiming the lives of 65 people with many more still missing. The bus, which was owned and operated by the Egyptian United Company (EUC) for mass transport, had swerved to avoid an oncoming truck. Many of the passengers drowned before rescue workers arrived at the scene
The 40-year-old bus driver Amgad Hanna Girguis and the 46-year-old truck driver Mohamed Bayoumi Hassan were both detained and charged with manslaughter. Hassan was caught as he tried to go into hiding.
The two drivers denied the charge. Hanna said he was driving at moderate speed when he suddenly found the truck, which was loaded with rocks and stones, heading towards his bus from the opposite side of the road. He tried to dodge it, and swerved away only to fall into the canal. He was able to unfasten his seat belt, get out of the window, and swim to safety.
As to Bayoumi, he said that he was coming in the opposite direction of the bus, which was some 100m afar. He flashed his light to warn the oncoming driver who swerved to avert a collision, but the bus clashed with the rear part of the truck.
The bus conductor Reda Shehata, 27, shocked investigators by admitting he had reserved 104 tickets for passengers—the bus was licensed to carry 44 passengers—meaning that scores of victims have yet to be found in Ibrahimiya waters.
This was proved by the number of notifications of missing people that were reported to the police stations of Maghagha and Beni-Mazar by the victims’ families.
Three accidents in less than two weeks
Only six days earlier another Minya bus carrying members of the Evangelical Church in Minya had overturned on the Minya Cairo desert road killing 14 people and injuring 30.
The technical report prepared by the local traffic office indicated that both vehicles were technically fit and carried valid licences.
Scores of the victims’ family and friends blocked the road on Tuesday before the EUC buses, pelting them with stones and grumbling against the government which they accused of corruption.
On Wednesday a parliamentary commission which arrived at the site of the accident for a separate investigation condemned the local authorities beginning with the governor and down to the traffic men for what it described as the abominable condition of the road and traffic.