A young man died and another was left seriously injured when they jumped off a moving train in a dispute with the railway official in charge of a service between Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the ancient city of Luxor, the country’s chief prosecutor said late on Tuesday.
The official gave the pair a choice between paying the fare, getting off the train or being handed over to police, according to a statement issued by the prosecutor’s office.
it said the official has been detained and will face manslaughter charges.
The two victims were identified as Mohammed Eid, 23, and Ahmed Sameer Ahmed, 25.
Egypt’s Railway Authority has been struggling financially for decades, charging passengers a tiny fraction of what they would pay for similar journeys in Europe but also offering a poor and unreliable service, with trains chronically running late, missing doors and windows and chaos prevailing on busy journeys.
Hundreds have died in train accidents over the last decade, including onboard fires, derailment caused by speed and, in one accident earlier this year, a driver-less engine car blowing up after smashing into a wall at Cairo’s busy railway station.
However, the railway service is currently undergoing a multibillion-dollar upgrade that includes buying new trains, building bridges for vehicles and pedestrians to replace the often-deadly crossings and computerising the signals system. Authorities are in the meantime seeking to recoup the heavy investment by hiking fares and adopting a zero-tolerance policy for fare dodgers.
Video clips posted online purported to show witnesses telling the police that the official asked a railway worker to open a carriage’s door and then proceeded to order the two men to jump off because they did not have the fare. The two natives of Cairo, Egypt’s capital, were selling knick-knacks on the train.
“They pleaded with him that the train was moving, but he would not budge,” said one witness. “One of the two went straight under the train’s wheels and the other landed a small distance away.”
Another clip posted online purported to show a passenger angrily recounting the incident to authorities on the telephone while still aboard the train. Another piece of footage showed a passenger explaining what happened to officials, apparently after the train stopped in Tanta, a Nike Delta city north of Cairo.
Health authorities in Tanta near where the incident took place said one of the two had his head severed when he landed under the wheels, while the second suffered serious injuries. The prosecutor’s statement confirmed these details.
Transport Minister Kamel Al Wazeer, a former army general from the Engineering Corps, said legal proceedings would be taken against whoever is found to be responsible for the incident. “I will not show any leniency when it comes to the rights of citizens,” he was quoted as saying by the State-owned daily Al Ahram.
The incident unleashed an uproar on social media and made the front-page of the Tuesday editions of Cairo newspapers. A prominent lawmaker, Alaa Waly, demanded that the Transport Minister put an end to these “absurdities” and review the manner in which railway employees treat passengers.