Fiery Egyptian tourist bus crash kills nine

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Nine people have died in a fiery tourist bus crash in Egypt on Thursday. The bus was carrying 40 North American and European passengers when it crashed in the Sinai peninsula.

The bus left the road when it skidded off a tight bend and struck a concrete barrier, rolling over and catching fire. The bus ended the roll back the right way up and was completely destroyed by the fire. One wheel lay twelve metres from the main wreckage and skid marks were left on the road. The coach had been travelling from a resort at nearby Sharm el-Sheikh to the capital Cairo when it crashed at Abu Zenima, with some reports suggesting the cause was a blowout on a tyre.

According to the Egyptian security official eight Russian nationals were killed, as was one of two drivers on board, both of whom were Egyptian. This was contradicted by Russian state owned service RIA Novosti, which stated just two Russians were among the dead. The Russian foreign ministry only said 16 Russians were injured and none killed, also contradicting the Egyptian security official who said only 14 people were injured in total. The Ukrainian foreign ministry said a Ukrainian woman had been killed and the Romanian foreign ministry said a 41-year-old Romanian woman was amongst the dead. The driver behind the wheel at the time survived the accident.

The crash occurred at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) about 70km (45 miles) from Suez, and many of the injured were rushed to hospital there. Traffic officials, security personnel, civil defence soldiers and ambulances all responded to the crash. In addition, the Azure Travel coach, like all Egyptian tour buses, had at least one armed police officer travelling on board.

Other injured passengers were taken to Sharm. Two Canadians and two British citizens are reported to be amongst the injured. The Brits are in a serious condition and one Canadian woman had her hand amputated. At least one person died in hospital. It is also reported that Italians were injured in the crash.

Road accidents claim around 6,000 lives and injure 30,000 every year in Egypt. This high accident rate is fed by poor maintenance and regulatory enforcement and reckless driving, with many roads allowing high rates of speed to be achieved. A fog-triggered pile-up killed 29 in February, and 23 died in March in a head-on collision between two lorries.