Two Britons were injured today in an horrific coach crash that killed at least nine tourists on Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. The tour bus was carrying around 40 holidaymakers when it flipped over and burst into flames on a desert road.
The nationalities of the dead are unknown and three of the passengers who died were burnt beyond recognition, officials said.
The vehicle was travelling from the popular holiday resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to Cairo at around 6am local time (0300 GMT) when it left the road, hit a concrete barrier, rolled over and exploded into flames.
The Foreign Office was “almost certain” that just two Britons were among the 28 injured tourists being treated in hospital, both suffered minor injuries. Russians, Romanians, Canadians, Italians, Egyptians and Ukrainians were on the bus, which reportedly overturned three or four times.
“At least two Britons were on board but neither was seriously injured,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. “Current indications are that there are no others. Both of those injured have been in touch with consular officials.”
Ali Haridi, the driver, said he lost control of the bus on a sharp curve in the road at Abu Zenima, an area about 40 miles south east of the Suez Canal.
Mr Haridi, who was taken to hospital with burns and cuts, said: “I was surprised by the turn and I wasn’t able to control the steering wheel, and I lost control and it rolled over.”
An Italian woman who survived the crash said the bus exploded moments after she leapt away from the wreckage down a steep embankment. Most of the passengers were asleep during the overnight trip, heading to Cairo, “and when we woke up the bus was turning upside-down. After that, it was hell,” said Diana Argentieri, a 27-year-old factory worker on holiday with friends. “It all seems like a nightmare, but unfortunately it’s real.”
Ms Argentieri said that she and other survivors had to jump 3 to 4 meters from the bus to avoid the flames. “We had no choice, so we plucked up our courage and jumped,” she said. “Immediately after that the bus exploded.”
Security and traffic officials, civil defence troops and ambulances all rushed to the scene.
The injured were taken to hospitals near Sharm. Three were in a serious condition and one of them later died in the hospital, a local official said, adding that a Canadian woman also had to have a hand amputated.
Egyptian officials said that the injured include 13 Russians, four British, two Romanians, two Canadians, two Italians, a Ukrainian and two Egyptian police as well as the Egyptian driver.
All tour buses in Egypt have at least one armed policeman on board because of the threat of Islamist attacks against Western tourists. The Red Sea destination has retained its popularity despite two terrorist attacks on tourists in recent years.
The Luxor massacre in November 1997 left more than 60 dead, including six Britons, after terrorists opened fire on tourists. Three years ago a bomb attack in Sharm el-Sheikh killed 11 UK holidaymakers.
In spite of the attacks the following year saw a record 657,000 Britons visit Egypt.
Roads in the north African are notoriously dangerous with many coastal and desert routes allowing for high speeds on poorly maintained roads.
Each year about 6,000 people die and 30,000 are injured in road accidents in Egypt, where traffic regulations are often badly enforced and vehicles frequently in disrepair.
Last month, 23 people were killed when two trucks collided head-on. In February, 29 people were killed in a pile-up on a road south of Cairo in an accident that was blamed on fog.