CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – A bus full of Australian tourists overturned on a wet highway overnight, killing six Australians and injuring at least 24 others, including one woman who was trying to help the casualties out of the wrecked bus, Egyptian and Australian officials said Wednesday.
“It was just awful,” witness Barbara Kennedy said of the accident that took place in rain Tuesday evening on the road to Alexandria about 46 kilometers (29 miles) north of Cairo.
The bus that crashed was one of a convoy of two carrying 80 police officers, emergency service workers and relatives from Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory. A nurse from Melbourne, Kennedy saw the accident from the second bus and tried to assist the injured.
“The first girl I came to … had passed away and the next person, he also was dead,” Kennedy told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
An Egyptian security official said five Australian males and one female were killed and 26 people injured, 25 Australians and the Egyptian bus driver. An official in the prosecutor’s office said one of the dead was an eight-year-old boy.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed six Australians had died, and another 24 Australians were injured. The difference in injury tolls could not be immediately reconciled.
Speaking in a phone call from Canberra, the spokeswoman said several casualties had been admitted to hospital in serious condition.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity, the Egyptians because they were not authorized to speak to the press, and the Australian because of government rules.
The Egyptian official blamed the accident on bad weather. However, in Australia, Acting Commissioner Bruce Wernham of the Northern Territory police said he had heard the bus swerved to avoid a car that was “dangerously overtaking.”
Egyptian officials did not confirm this. Wernham said three Northern Territory police women were on the second bus and tried to attend to “some pretty horrific injuries.”
“Unfortunately, while they were attempting to go to the aid of their colleagues, one of our members received some injuries … when the roof of the bus collapsed,” Wernham told the Australian Associated Press.
The police woman had been admitted to hospital with a dislocated hip and fractured pelvis, he added.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters in Sydney: “There’s been a very serious accident in Egypt in which a number of Australians have been involved.”
Downer said the Australian ambassador had gone to the scene to assist.
Road accidents are common in Egypt owing to bad roads and poor enforcement of traffic laws. Police estimate road accidents kill about 6,000 people annually.