When Yehya Ali answered “yes” over the phone to a question from his brother of whether he had sent his three daughters to school, he did not know he was affirming the loss of the only kids he brought to life.
When he learned that the school bus carrying his daughters, Muna, Eman and Ayat, was smashed and broken in half by a train in the south of Cairo, Ali rushed barefoot to the scene of the accident, al-Masry al-Youm reported.
Among dozens of bodies of school children, Ali could hardly recognize his dead daughters, and when he did, the shocked man burst into tears at the horrific reality of his beloved daughters.
“The official negligence has extinguished my dreams,” he was later quoted by the Egyptian daily. “I had nothing in life except my three daughters,” he said. His wife and the mother of the girls fell into coma and was hospitalized.
Muna, Eman and Ayat were among more than 50 people, mostly nursery school children, who were killed on Saturday when a train slammed into their school bus as it crossed tracks in Assiut city south of Cairo on Saturday, prompting protests and the resignation of the transport minister.
The bus was broken in half by the force of the crash. Blood was spattered on the front of the engine and school bags and text books, some bloodstained, were strewn around.
Witnesses said barriers at the rail crossing were open when the train hit the bus. Transport Minister Mohamed Rashad and the head of the railways authority resigned, and President Mohamed Mursi said those responsible would be held to account.
Egyptians have long complained that the government has failed to deal with the country's chronic transport problems, with roads as poorly maintained as railway lines.
Earlier this month, five people were killed and dozens injured when two trains collided in Fayyum province, southwest of Cairo. A month earlier, 28 police died in the Sinai peninsula when the driver of their bus lost control at the wheel.