EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) – A speeding bus carrying dozens of Canadian and European tourists overturned and caught fire Thursday on a desert highway in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, killing at least nine passengers and wounding 28, security and emergency officials said.
The bus was carrying around 40 tourists, mostly from Canada, Britain, Italy and Eastern Europe from the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, said Dr. Said Issa, director of emergency services in the Sinai.
It overturned at a sharp curve in the highway at Abu Zenima, an area about 70 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of the Suez Canal, and then a fire swept through the bus, Issa said.
At least nine passengers were killed and 28 injured, officials said. Egypt’s state news agency, MENA, said the dead bodies were transferred to a local clinic, but wounded survivors were rushed back to a larger hospital in Sharm el-Sheik.
Many of the wounded were severely burned. A security official gave a breakdown of nationalities of those injured: 13 Russians, four Britons, two Canadians, two Italians, two Romanians, one Ukrainian and four Egyptians.
The four locals included two policemen providing security on the bus, officials said. The cause of the accident was not immediately known, security officials said, all speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to the press.
Ali Haridi, an Egyptian who was sitting near the driver when the accident occurred, said the bus flipped and he was so disoriented “I couldn’t tell where the driver was.”
Haridi, who suffered some burns and cuts, spoke by cell phone from an ambulance that he said was carrying several injured tourists, including a woman whose hand had been severed and another who was severely burned.
Egyptian roads see frequent accidents because of speeding, careless driving and poor road conditions. At least 8,000 people were killed in accidents in 2006, the most recent statistics available.