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Egypt's Minister of Transport,  Railroad Director Resign - 2002-02-22

Egypt's minister of transport and the head of its railway authority handed in their resignations Friday following a train fire on Wednesday that killed at least 363 people. It was the worst train accident in Egypt's history.

The resignations of Transport Minister Ibrahim el-Dimeiri and Railroad Authority Director Ahmed el-Sherif came as no surprise. Criticism of Egypt's dilapidated state-run railway has been mounting since the accident on Wednesday.

Newspapers in Egypt, government-supported as well as those in opposition, have been calling for an investigation and trial of those responsible. One opposition paper has proposed publicly hanging those to blame for the tragedy. President Hosni Mubarak went on state television Thursday to promise an honest and thorough investigation.

The president said all those who failed to carry out their duties will be held accountable.

The government has announced it will pay $665 each to families of those killed on the train, and $222 apiece to those injured.

A team of 70 investigators has launched an investigation into the cause of the accident, interviewing the train's conductor, engineers, ticket takers and other witnesses.

At first it was believed that an exploding gas cylinder caused the fire, but Egyptian newspapers are now saying an electrical short-circuit may have started the fire. Once started, it quickly spread to seven of the 11 carriages in the train.

The train was more crowded than usual because it was filled with people traveling to the countryside to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice.