The toll continued to rise throughout Saturday after a cafe and two luxury hotels in the Red Sea resort were attacked in the early hours.

 

The deaths occurred in two car bomb blasts and another explosion, possibly a third car bomb. A rescue official said at least 136 people were wounded, but that figure could reach 200.

 

Medical sources have confirmed to Aljazeera the toll may continue to rise as many of the injured are in critical conditions, Samir Omar Aljazeera's correspondent reported.

 

Foreigners among dead

 

British people, Dutch, French, Spaniards, Kuwaitis and Egyptians were among the casualties, police sources said, but the vast majority of dead and wounded are Egyptian. Earlier reports had Qataris among the dead, a statement later refuted by the Qatari embassy in Cairo.
   
Shaken tourists spoke of mass panic and hysteria as people fled bomb after bomb, with bodies strewn across the roads.

 

Bodies are put in an ambulance
at the scene of the blast

A rescue official said many of the wounded were Egyptian workers who had gathered at a cafe in the old market where the first blast struck. The blasts occurred on what is a national holiday in Egypt, Revolution Day.

 

He said 17 of the dead were burnt beyond recognition by the explosions.

 

A team from the Dutch embassy in Cairo was heading to the resort after rumours that Dutch tourists were among the casualties, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said.

 

Britain announced that some of its nationals were among the dead, and a similar ambassadorial team was being sent to the scene.

 

After his visit to Sharm al-Shaikh hospital, the British ambassador to Egypt told Aljazeera two British people were transferred to Cairo by helicopter for medical treatment.

 

Rescue operation

 

Rescue teams continued searching for survivors and bodies under the debris, Aljazeera correspondent Husayn Abd al-Ghani reported.

 

The Red Crescent fears some victims are still stuck under the debris, he said.

 

The Egyptian security authorities have stepped up security measures inside and outside Cairo International airport following the explosions.

 

"Many of the injuries are very serious and they are in critical condition" 

A doctor at Sharm al-Shaikh International Hospital

Israel has offered to send army rescue teams to assist in the clear-up operation, but is not planning to order the repatriation of the 10,000 nationals estimated to be holidaying in the Sinai resorts.

 

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has ended his holiday and arrived at the resort to examine the situation.

 

Serious injuries

The blasts came within minutes of each other shortly after 1am (2200 GMT), at a time when many tourists were still out in bars and markets in the popular and hitherto safe resort. The blasts appeared to be co-ordinated.

The Ghazala Gardens hotel was
destroyed in the bomb attack

A police source said one bomb appeared to have exploded near the bazaar in Sharm al-Shaikh itself, with at least three more in the luxury hotel strip of Naama Bay about 6km away, popular with divers and holidaymakers from Europe.

A tourist bazaar, the Ghazala Gardens Hotel and the Moevenpick Hotel were the targets there, he said. One witness said a taxi rank was also hit. Earlier reports put the number of explosions at seven.

 

The Ghazala Gardens hotel was destroyed, as were four cars parked in front of it, by the explosion, Abd al-Ghani reported.

 

Glass shrapnel was scattered at the explosion site, while the cafe in front of the hotel was also destroyed.

 

Car bomb

 

According to South Sinai Governor Mustafa Afifi a car broke into the Ghazala Gardens Hotel's compound and exploded in front of the building, collapsing the reception lobby into a pile of concrete. Egyptian tourist hotels always have police guards at the gates.


"Many of the injuries are very serious and they are in critical condition," said a doctor at Sharm al-Shaikh International Hospital.

"The whole area was quickly covered in debris. There was a huge ball of smoke that mushroomed up, it was mass hysteria"
Charles Ives,
London policeman

Fire and smoke billowed over Sharm al-Shaikh after the first explosion there, one resident said.

 

Residents said the blasts shook homes 10km away and blew out windows closer to the blasts.

 

The Muslim Brotherhood Movement issued a statement denouncing the explosions, Aljazeera's correspondent in Egypt reported.

 

Witness report

 

Alaa Hasanayn, a member of the Egyptian People's Council and a witness, told Aljazeera: "I saw people flying in the air, others burning, and a car entering the reception hall of the hotel as if it was parking there."

 

"This can be referred to disagreement of Arab countries' on combating terrorism," he added.

 

Hasanayn said he believed the explosion was a "terrorist and suicide" operation.

 

"I'm one of the first people who saw the incident as I was at the hotel at the explosion time," he said.

  

Israel blamed

 

"This explosion is not related to Islam or Christianity at all. It is related to Judaism," Hasanayn said.

 

Some believe Egyptians were a
target of the bomb attacks

He believes that Israel stands behind the explosions.

 

"I frankly believe that Israel stands behind the operation, as those killed and injured are mostly Arabs, particularly Egyptians," he said.  

 

"The hotel and the market place are frequented by simple Egyptians, not foreigners," he added.  

 

Bomb after bomb

 

Charlie Ives, a London policeman on holiday after dealing with the aftermath of bombings in the British capital, said he and his wife tried to get away from the scene of a first bomb only to witness a second one four minutes later.

 

"The whole area was quickly covered in debris. There was a huge ball of smoke that mushroomed up, it was mass hysteria," he told BBC World television.

 

Tourist Fabio Basone told the BBC the front of one hotel had been completely blown away, with car and shop windows blown out. "People were trying to run in any direction to get away, but were not clear where to go," he said.