Someone apparently activated the emergency brakes on the passenger train, and it was rear-ended by another train, causing two cars to derail and flip on their side, Egypt’s Railway Authorities said on Friday (Saturday AEDT).
The passenger train was headed to the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, north of Cairo, the statement said.
Video showed twisted piles of metal with passengers covered with dust trapped inside – some bleeding and others unconscious.
Bystanders removed the dead and laid them on the ground nearby. One passenger was heard shouting on the video “Help us! People are dying!”
Dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene in the province of Sohag, about 440 kilometres south of Cairo, and the injured were taken to four nearby hospitals, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Their injuries included broken bones, cuts and bruises, it said.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly’s office said he and five members of his cabinet would go to the scene.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he was monitoring the situation and those responsible would receive “a deterrent punishment.”
“The pain that tears our hearts today cannot but make us more determined to end this type of disaster,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Egypt’s rail system has a history of badly maintained equipment and mismanagement. Official figures said there were 1793 train accidents in 2017.
In 2018, a passenger train derailed near the southern city of Aswan, injuring at least six people and prompting authorities to fire the chief of the country’s railways.
The same year, Mr el-Sissi said the government needed about 250 billion Egyptian pounds ($20.8 billion) to overhaul the rail system.
Those remarks came a day after a passenger train collided with a cargo train, killing at least 12 people.
In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo.
Egypt’s deadliest train crash was in 2002, when more than 300 people were killed after fire broke out in a train travelling from Cairo to southern Egypt.