ASSIUT, Egypt A speeding train crashed into a bus carrying children to their kindergarten in southern Egypt on Saturday, killing at least 49, officials said. Distraught families searched for signs of their loved ones along the tracks and angry villagers berated officials in the aftermath of the latest disaster to hit the country's railway system.
The bus was carrying more than 50 children ages four to six when it was hit near al-Mandara village in Manfaloot district in the province of Assiut, a security official said. He said it appeared that the railroad crossing was not closed as the train sped toward it.
Egypt's railway system has a poor safety record, mostly blamed on decades of badly maintained equipment and poor management.
Two hospital officials said between seven and 11 wounded were being treated in two different facilities, many with severed limbs.All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Accidents traced to negligence regularly left scores dead during the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, who was accused of valuing loyalty over competence in many appointments of senior officials. Widespread corruption under his three decades in power has also been blamed for the underfunding of government services, particularly in poor provinces outside Cairo.
The railway's worst disaster took place in February 2002 when a train heading to southern Egypt caught fire, killing 363 people. Media reports quoted official statistics saying that the rail and road accidents claimed more than 7,000 lives in 2010.
This is the worst such tragedy since the country's first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, took office this summer. Egypt's Transport Minister Mohammed el-Meteeni resigned in the wake of the crash, the state news agency reported, but some activists have accused Morsi of continuing the mistakes of his predecessor.
Saturday's accident comes one week after two trains collided in another southern province, killing four people. Some of the country's train accidents are blamed on an outdated system that relies heavily on switch operators instead of assistance from technology.
Residents in Assiut complained that there were not enough ambulances in the area that could respond quickly enough and that the ambulances themselves were ill-equipped to deal with the emergency.