Official investigation: Train driver gross callousness behind deadly fire at Cairo Railway Station

05-03-2019 01:56 PM

Sheri Abdel-Massih

A report has been issued by Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek on the investigation into the fire which erupted on 27 February 2019 in Cairo Railway station, claiming some 22 lives and injuring more than 40, many of whom sustain serious burns.

The report revealed no traces of any explosive material on the scene. It confirmed that the fire was sparked by an explosion of the petrol tank of the runaway locomotive 2310 which rammed into a concrete barrier at the station.

The unmanned 2310 locomotive was set at 120km/hr, it’s maximum speed. Investigations revealed that the accident had started in the rail yard when, right before the crash, two locomotives driving in opposite directions had encountered each other at a junction, and touched head-on. The driver of the locomotive 2310 dismounted, without turning off the engine, to argue with the driver of the other locomotive (2302). As they argued, the driver of 2302 drove backwards and managed to disengage from 2310 which then, unmanned, set off at full speed into the railway station, stopping only when it rammed into the end-of-line concrete barrier. The shock of the impact caused the 6,000 litre diesel tank to burst; the sputtered diesel combined with the oxygen in the air to form an explosive mixture which, sparked by the sparks emitted from the collision, blew up into the deadly conflagration.

Six railway workers have been detained for their alleged responsibility in the fire incident. The defendants included the drivers and assistants of the two trains involved in the crash, as well as a worker tasked with switching junctions and a maneuvering operator on one of the trains. According to the prosecution’s report, the train maneuvering operator tested positive for the potent narcotic “strox.”

The report stated that the prosecution had questioned 38 railways officials, including the head of the Railways Authority, engineers, supervisors, maintenance workers, industrial safety officials, and CCTV supervisors. It promised updates would be issued on the investigation.

Video footage of the fire and victims, filmed by the railway station’s CCTV camera and by passersby, had gone viral on social media, sending shockwaves that reverberated all through Egypt. The public responded in agonised pain and searing wrath at what was widely seen as the most recent incident in a long series that exposed deep rooted callousness by Railway Authority officials.

Transport Minister Hesham Arafat resigned the afternoon of the day the fire had erupted and, two days later, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi appointed Major General Kamel al-Wazir, Head of the Engineering Authority for the Armed Forces, as the new Minister of Transport.

Watani International

5 March 2019



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