Egypt boosts compulsory drug tests after train crash that killed 25

A crowd surveys a damaged train inside Ramsis train station in Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 27, 2019, hours after a fiery train collision that killed 25 people. (AP file photo)
Updated 14 March 2019
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Egypt boosts compulsory drug tests after train crash that killed 25

  • Probers blamed last month's deadly train collission at Cairo's train station to a drug addicted driver
  • The driver was found to have left his train without turning off its engine

CAIRO: School bus drivers, rail workers and university students in Egypt face more compulsory drug tests in the wake of last month’s deadly train crash at in Cairo.

Nearly 30 school bus drivers are being prosecuted after testing positive for hashish, morphine or Tramadol, a cheap over-the-counter medicine that is popular among low-income earners.

Twenty-five people died in last month’s incident at Ramses station in Cairo, when a runaway train hit platform buffers and its fuel tank exploded in a fireball. The driver was subsequently found to be a drug addict.

Out of 5,000 railway employees tested, many were positive, said Amr Osman, director of the Fund for Drug Control and Treatment. Exact numbers will be revealed later, he said. Now Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity has formed a medical committee to test almost 1,500 school bus drivers in the governorates of Cairo, Giza, Sharqeya, Gharbeya and Daqahleya.

Those who test positive will be referred to the Public Prosecution. Offenders will face imprisonment for at least two years and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($574).

Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said his ministry was also looking into drug testing university students. This would put students who were vulnerable or exposed to drugs “back on the rightful path,” he said. 

“In education, we have a crucial role to combat drugs, not just with drug testing but also with raising awareness on the dire consequences of drug addiction.”

According to a 2018 study published by the Health Ministry, 24 percent of more than 10,000 students had experimented with drugs.

In the 2016-17 school year, 150 out of 4,000 school bus drivers were prosecuted for testing positive for drugs.


Key events in Egypt since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. (Supplied)
Updated 21 April 2019
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Key events in Egypt since the 2011 pro-democracy uprising

CAIRO: Here are key events in eight years of turmoil and transition in Egypt, leading up to a national referendum on constitutional amendments that could allow President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to remain in power until 2030.

● Feb. 11, 2011: Autocrat Hosni Mubarak steps down after 18 days of nationwide protests against his nearly 30-year rule. The military takes over, dissolving Parliament and suspending the constitution after the uprising leaves hundreds of protesters dead in clashes with security forces.

● Nov. 28, 2011-Feb. 15, 2012: The Muslim Brotherhood wins nearly half the seats in multi-stage elections for the first post-Mubarak Parliament.

● June 30, 2012: The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Muhammad Mursi takes office as Egypt’s first freely elected president.

● Aug. 12, 2012: Mursi removes the defense minister and military chief, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and replaces him with El-Sisi.

● Nov. 22, 2012: Mursi unilaterally decrees greater powers for himself, a move that sparks days of protests.

● Dec. 15-22, 2012: Egyptians approve a constitution drafted and hastily passed by Parliament amid protests and walkouts by other groups.

● June 30, 2013: On Mursi’s anniversary in office, millions of Egyptians begin days of demonstrations demanding his resignation. The military gives him 48 hours to reach an agreement with his opponents, but he vows to remain in office.

● July 3, 2013: El-Sisi announces Mursi’s removal.

● Aug. 14, 2013: More than 600 people, mostly Mursi supporters, are killed when police clear two pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo. Mursi supporters retaliate by torching government buildings, churches and police stations. Hundreds more die in subsequent violence.

● Dec. 25, 2013: The government designates the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

● May 26-28, 2014: Egyptians vote in a presidential election. El-Sisi wins with 96.9 percent of the vote.

● May 16, 2015: Mursi and more than 100 others are sentenced
to death over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising.

● Oct. 2015: Egypt holds parliamentary elections, leading to an assembly packed with El-Sisi supporters.

● April 2, 2018: El-Sisi wins a second, four-year term in office, with more than 97 percent of the vote.
● Feb. 2019: Lawmakers submit proposed amendments to the constitution that allow El-Sisi to remain in power beyond
his current second four-year term.

● April 10: President Donald Trump welcomes El-Sisi to the White House for a second official visit.

● April 17: The Parliament, packed with El-Sisi’s supporters, overwhelmingly passes the proposed amendments.

● April 18: Egypt’s National Election Authority schedules three days of voting in a nationwide referendum on the amendments. The vote takes place Saturday through Monday.