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Dozens of children killed after train crashes into school bus in Egypt

Updated at 10 a.m. ET: CAIRO -- At least 49 people, the vast majority children, were killed when a train crashed into a school bus in a city south of Cairo Saturday, Egyptian police and the governor of the city told NBC News.

Gov. Yahya Taha Kishk said 17 people were injured in the accident in Assiut, which is around 190 miles south of the capital.

Manfalut hospital, near the crash site, told NBC News that the children killed in the crash were aged around four to six years old and attended a private nursery school.

A doctor at the hospital told Reuters that two women were among those injured.

"They told us the barriers were open when the bus crossed the tracks and the train collided with it," doctor Mohamed Samir added, citing witness accounts.

The bus was broken in half by the force of the crash, pictures on website, run by an Egyptian newspaper, showed. Blood was spattered on the front of the engine and school bags and text books, some bloodstained, were scattered around the scene.  

Officials said the level of destruction and mutilation made it difficult to count and identify the bodies. 

"I saw the train collide with the bus and push it about 1 km (half a mile) along the track," said Ahmed Youssef, a driver. 

Railway crossing worker asleep

President Mohammed Morsi ordered his ministers to offer support to the families of those killed, Egypt's official news agency reported.

Kishk, the Assiut governor, ordered an investigation and told state television that the railways crossing was open when the train hit the bus.

"The crossing worker was asleep. He has been detained," he said.

Victims' families protested at the scene, the state news agency reported.

Egypt's roads and railways have a poor safety record. Egyptians have complained successive governments have failed to enforce basic safety standards, leading to a string of deadly accidents.

Earlier this month, at least three Egyptians were killed and more than 30 injured in a train crash in Fayoum, another city south of Cairo. In July, 15 people were injured in Giza, close to the capital, when a train derailed. 

Egypt's worst train disaster was in 2002 when a fire ripped through seven carriages of an overcrowded passenger train, killing at least 360 people.

Many more have been killed in rail accidents since then despite pledges from successive government to improve safety. Accidents involving multiple deaths are also common on Egypt's poor road network.

NBC News' Charlene Gubash and Reuters contributed to this report.

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