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.


Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

Updated 16 July 2019
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Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

  • EU foreign ministers said they are suspending talks with Turkey over air transport agreement
  • They backed EU’s proposal to decrease financial assistance to Turkey

ANKARA: Turkey on Tuesday rejected as “worthless” an initial set of sanctions approved by the European Union against Ankara, and vowed to send a new vessel to the eastern Mediterranean to reinforce its efforts to drill for hydrocarbons off the island of Cyprus.
EU foreign ministers on Monday approved sanctions against Turkey over its drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. They said they were suspending talks on an air transport agreement, as well as high-level Turkey-EU dialogues, and would call on the European Investment Bank to review its lending to the country.
They also backed a proposal by the EU’s executive branch to reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional “targeted measures” were being worked on to penalize Turkey, which started negotiations to join the EU in 2005.
Speaking at a news conference in Macedonia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the sanctions aimed to “appease” Cyprus and were of “no importance.”
“The EU needs us concerning the migration issue or other issues,” he said. “They will come to us and hold contacts; there is no escaping that.”
“They know that the decisions they took cannot be applied,” he said. “They were forced to take the worthless decisions under pressure from the Greek Cypriots and Greece.”
Cavusoglu added: “If you take such decisions against Turkey, we will increase our activities. We have three ships in the eastern Mediterranean, will with send a fourth.”
Earlier, the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the EU for ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots and accused the 28-nation bloc of “prejudice and bias.”
It added that Turkey was determined to protect its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end of ethnically divided Cyprus. A third Turkish exploration ship is also in the area. Turkey insists that it has rights over certain offshore zones and that Turkish Cypriots have rights over others.
Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits.
Cypriot officials accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.
The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 68 kilometers off the island’s west coast.