A bus carrying dozens of foreign tourists overturned and caught fire in Egypt early Thursday, killing at least nine people and injuring 29, including two Canadians, an emergency official said.

egypt-bus-cp-4785809

An Egyptian policeman attends at the scene of a tourist bus crash near Abu Zenima in the Sinai, Egypt, Thursday. ((Ashraf Sweilam/Associated Press))

About 40 tourists from Canada and Europe were aboard the bus, which burned in the accident, according to Dr. Said Issa, the head of emergency services in Sinai.

He said the bus flipped on a sharp highway turn at Abu Zenima, an area about 70 kilometres southeast of the Suez Canal in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, as it made its way from the Sinai resort city of Sharm el-Sheik to Cairo.

A security official said 14 Russians, four Britons, two Canadians, two Italians, two Romanians, one Ukrainian and four Egyptians were among the injured. Diplomatic officials have confirmed that at least one Russian and one Romanian were killed. The nationalities of the remaining victims have not been released.

"One doctor told CBC News the bodies were burned like coal, and obviously that led to problems in identifying them," the CBC's Peter Armstrong reported from Jerusalem, adding that a Ukrainian was also believed to be among the dead.

The two injured Canadians — a woman and a man — are in stable condition in hospital. The woman, believed to be in her 50s, had her left arm amputated. The man was treated for superficial wounds, according to a doctor at the Suez Hospital.

A Foreign Affairs Department spokesman in Ottawa said the Canadian Embassy in Cairo is aware of the situation and "is in contact with local authorities."

The department is advising concerned family and friends to call the emergency operations centre at the Department of Foreign Affairs at 1-800-387-3124.

The driver of the bus said he was surprised by the turn and unable to control the steering wheel as the bus entered a sharp curve along the highway. He said passengers had to jump out of windows as the vehicle caught fire.   

An Italian passenger who survived the accident said the bus started speeding soon after it began its journey, prompting concern amongst the passengers. 

"The bus was going very fast and the road was in bad condition. We were immediately scared by the speed," said Diana Argentieri, who was vacationing in Egypt with friends.

Bus exploded after woman freed herself

Most of the passengers were asleep during the overnight trip, she said, "and when we woke up the bus was turning upside-down. After that, it was hell,"

inside-egypt-crash-cp-47835

Russian tourist Natalia Libskaya, who survived the bus crash, is seen at the International Hospital in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, Thursday. ((Yasser Emam/Associated Press))

She said the bus, which rolled three or four times, exploded moments after she freed herself from the wreckage.

It was initially reported that seven people had died and 16 were injured, although both counts were later raised. Survivors were rushed to a hospital in Sharm el-Sheik, while the bodies of those killed were taken to a local clinic, according to Egypt's state news agency, MENA. At least two of the survivors had to undergo surgery, a nurse said.

The cause of the crash was still being investigated Thursday.

Recent statistics show at least 8,000 people in Egypt died in vehicle accidents in 2006, largely due to speeding and poor road conditions.

With files from the Associated Press