The two commuter trains crashed near the town of Qalyoub, about 20km (12 miles) north of Cairo at about 7am (0400 GMT) on Monday morning.

Hatem Al-Gabali, Egypt's health minister, said: "The number of victims has risen to 58 dead and 143 wounded, including four in serious condition."

One of the trains derailed, overturned and caught fire.

One train was heading for Cairo from Mansura while the other, on the same line and also going to the Egyptian capital, was coming from Benha.

Following the crash, the head of Egypt's state railway authority was fired and his deputy suspended, Aljazeera reported.

Big impact

The train from Mansura was going at least 80km an hour when it crashed into the other train which was stationary on the same track.

Egyptian rescue workers carry a
survivor of the crash

The driver apparently ignored a stop signal outside Qalyoub train station, police sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to give statements to the media.

Mamduh Amer, a 29-year-old policeman, said: "I was in the train from Benha which had stopped for five minutes. Suddenly, we felt something like an earthquake. We jumped out the windows and we saw fire at the back of the train."

The driver of the Mansura train was killed and the locomotive overturned, police said.

At the scene, survivors and onlookers vented their anger on rescue workers who they said were slow to arrive.

"We called the fire service, but in the beginning they didn't believe us," said Shaima Samir, a 23-year old who lives near the crash site.

Past accidents

Egypt has a history of fatal train crashes.

Its deadliest rail disaster occurred on February 20, 2002, when a passenger using a stove accidentally set fire to a train heading to the south. The resulting blaze killed 361 people.

A crash near Alexandria in 1998 killed 41 people.

In another accident on trains travelling between the southern cities of Luxor and Aswan in 1997 30 people died, while 75 perished in a disaster south of Cairo in 1995.

Most of the crashes have been blamed on negligence and poor maintenance.