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Horror on Egypt fire train

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- More than 370 people have died in a blaze on board an Egyptian train, officials say.

Passengers attempted to escape the flames by jumping from the train as its driver carried on unaware of the blaze spreading through the rear carriages.

Dozens more were injured, Egyptian Prosecutor General Maher Abdel Wahid said.

They were taken to hospitals after being rescued from the train by villagers when the train stopped near Al Ayatt, about 70 kilometers (40 miles) south of Cairo.

Police said at least 44 died when they leapt from the blazing train and 198 others died trapped in at least six carriages.

Inferno on the tracks. Journalist Sandy Petrykowski reports (February 20)

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Journalist Sandy Petrykowski described the scene as "gruesome." She said the half dozen carriages were completely gutted and there was the smell of charred bodies.

The director of the state-owned Egyptian Railway Authority, Ahmed al-Sherif, told Associated Press it was the worst accident in decades.

"There has been nothing in the recent or distant past like this," he said at the scene, about 46 miles from Cairo.

"I've been with the railway for 32 years and never seen or heard of an event of this size."

A steady stream of ambulances was removing the dead and injured from the scene.

The fire was thought to have started in the cafeteria carriage of the train, the local governor told CNN.

Authorities are investigating whether the inferno was caused by a portable gas fire, which many Egyptians carry to heat coffee.

The train was en route from Cairo south to Luxor when the fire broke out on Wednesday.

Investigators believe the cars were overcrowded with passengers, making it impossible for many to escape the blaze.

The accident comes at a busy travel time throughout the Muslim world. Many Egyptians are on holiday for the upcoming Eid feast that follows the Hajj.




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