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Egypt's Train Crash Exposes Antiquated Rail System

Fifty eight people have died and more than 143 were injured Monday when one train rammed into another just out Cairo during the morning commute to the capital.

By late afternoon, the wreckage had been removed from the track and rail service resumed.

But parts of bodies were still strewn across the surrounding corn fields. Rescuers were told to burry the body parts in the sand next to the tracks. Witnesses say it took more than an hour for the first ambulances to arrive at the scene.

In the meantime, people from neighboring apartment buildings rushed to pull out the injured, clawing at the wreckage with pieces of scrap metal.

"This is our Egypt,'' one onlooker said, asking aloud why ambulances had not yet arrived. Some family members of the injured and deceased directed their anger at police stationed at the tracks near the collision.

Twenty seven-year-old Sobhi Azem was on his daily commute to Cario when the trains collided. He says he was 10 centimeters away from death and considers himself lucky to climb out of the crumpled carriage car alive.

"People were screaming, and there was blood splashed all over" him and body parts were everywhere." He says he saw behind him dead bodies 'piled from the floor to the ceiling.'" He said he is only one of six people who survived in that train car.

While visiting the injured at one of the local hospitals, Egypt's Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif acknowledged the country's 150-year-old railway system needs an overhaul.

Mr. Nazif says Egypt must "prevent these accidents that keep happening in the railway industry." "The Egyptian railway needs our immediate attention," he says, "We need to fund new compartments and we have to improve the railroads and rail signals. We also need to provide better training for the railway workers."

Mr. Nazif said the government would give the families of the deceased compensation equivalent to $1,000 U.S. and $250 to the injured. He added that this was a good compensation package, considering the price of the train ticket was the equivalent of a nickel.

He said the government had committed $8 billion to revamping the antiquated railway.

The train collision worsens the country's already poor record of rail safety. One of the world's worst railway accidents took place in Egypt four years ago, when 360 people died.