18 - 24 November 1999
Issue No. 456
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Nisf El-Dunia in mourning
Road accidents have become a tragic daily reality for many Egyptians. But news of the accident that killed 45-year-old Mohamed Hammam, deputy editor-in-chief of the weekly Al-Ahram publication Nisf El-Dunia, came as a blow to journalists.
Hammam was driving his Fiat 128 on 6 October bridge last Friday at 11:00am when a police car, approaching at full speed in the opposite direction, flew into the air and crashed into his vehicle, killing him instantly. The driver, a 21-year-old conscript, was arrested and accused of manslaughter, damaging two cars, and driving his car "dangerously" at high speed. He later told Al-Wayli district prosecutors that he "had no idea how it happened". According to investigation reports, one of the front wheels of the conscript's car had come loose, which caused the vehicle to leap across the median before colliding violently with Hammam's car on the other side of the bridge.
This tragedy is an almost identical replay of the accident that took place four months ago on the same bridge, when the 18-year-old son of a prominent parliamentarian, allegedly under the influence of alcohol and engaged in "racing" another car, lost control of his vehicle, which crossed the bridge and ploughed into an oncoming vehicle. The crash killed the other driver and his infant son. The public outcry that ensued only abated when a court of first instance sentenced the offender to four years' imprisonment with hard labour. His father contested this verdict, however, and last Sunday another court reduced the sentence to six months.
According to government statistics, 23,363 accidents took place on Egyptian roads in 1998, claiming the lives of 5,000 and injuring 22,000. Road accidents also accounted for one fourth of all hospital admissions. Losses are estimated at LE1 billion a year.
Mohamed Hammam began working at Al-Ahram after he graduated from the Journalism Department of Cairo University's Faculty of Mass Communications in 1977, and contributed to the organisation's various publications before being appointed deputy chief editor of Nisf El-Dunia last year. He is survived by his wife and three children.