Nine killed on Egypt tourist bus

Nine people were killed when a tourist bus overturned in Egypt's Sinai peninsula and caught fire early today.

The Foreign Office said later that no Britons were among the dead but that it could not confirm reports that four Britons had been injured. A spokesman said: "We are still trying to find out just how many Britons were involved and how many, if any, were injured. Our consul in Sharm el-Sheikh is currently visiting hospitals in the area."

A further 16 people were injured in the crash, which happened when the bus overturned at a sharp curve in the road as it headed from the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

A British honorary consul is travelling to the hospital where the victims have been taken and the spokeswoman said more information would be released as it became available.

Dr Said Issa, head of emergency services in the Sinai, said the bus was carrying around 40 tourists from Canada, Italy, Russia and the Ukraine, as well as the UK. He said the bus was gutted in the accident and many of the victims suffered severe burns and warned the death toll could rise.

The bus overturned at Abu Zenima, about 40 miles south east of the Suez Canal, then the fire swept through the vehicle, Dr Issa said.

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 in the most recent statistics.

Frances Tuke, spokeswoman for UK travel organisation Abta, said: "We understand this was a privately-sold coach trip and was not part of any UK tour operator programme."

She went on: "Egypt has proved a very popular destination for Britons this year and Sharm el-Sheikh is the favourite Red Sea resort for UK visitors."

Egypt has retained its popularity despite the terrible Luxor massacre in November 1997 when six Britons were among more than 60 killed when terrorists opened fire on tourists and despite a bomb attack at Sharm el-Sheikh which killed 11 UK holidaymakers in July 2005.

In 2006, a record 657,000 Britons visited Egypt and UK holidaymakers made 496,000 trips there last year.