CAIRO – At least 19 people died and more than 100 were injured when two railroad passenger cars derailed just south of Cairo after midnight Monday, health officials said.
The accident comes less than two weeks after a new transportation minister was appointed to overhaul the rail system, and just two months after a deadly collision between a train and school bus.
The official MENA news agency quoted Health Ministry officials who said that the 107 wounded were being treated in hospitals near the site of the accident in Giza's Badrasheen neighborhood. They said the number of dead is expected to rise.
The state-owned Ahram website reported that the 12-carriage train was carrying 1,328 conscripted Egyptian soldiers headed north from Assiut to Cairo.
Roy Hamad Gaafar, a survivor, said he was on board when the last two carriages detached from the rest and derailed.
"I saw my colleagues' body parts strewn on the tracks," he told the news website.
Images carried on Egyptian satellite channels showed residents using flashlights to assist rescue efforts to reach wounded trapped underneath the wreckage.
President Mohammed Morsi named a new transportation minister on Jan. 6 who is a member of his Muslim Brotherhood group in an effort to improve railway safety. The post had been left vacant in the aftermath of a train accident that killed 49 kindergartners on their way to school in November when a speeding train crashed into their school bus.
Accidents due to negligence regularly killed scores over the three-decade rule of Hosni Mubarak. Widespread corruption has also been blamed for the underfunding of government services, particularly in poor provinces outside Cairo.
The railway's worst disaster was in February 2002, when a train heading to southern Egypt caught fire, killing 363 people. Media reports quoting official statistics say that rail and road accidents claimed more than 7,000 lives in 2010.
The vice-chairman of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and head of the party's committee in the upper house of parliament, Essam el-Erian, said in Facebook message after the accident that condolences to the families of the victims would not be enough.
"Special allocations of resources for the development of train transport and a revision of the distribution of coming resources to save the lives of people is the priority before anything else," he wrote.