Rescuers were still searching for those thought to be missing after one of the ferries broke in half and the other overturned.

Reports remain unclear as to what caused the collision. However, Mohammed Sharawi, the provincial governor, told Egypt's official news agency that one of the boats capsized.

Egypt has frequent transportation accidents, mainly because of poor infrastructure.

In February 2006, a ferry in the Red Sea caught fire and sank en route to Egypt from Saudi Arabia, killing 1,034 of the 1,400 people on board.

An Egyptian appeals court in March this year found the owner of the ferry guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to seven years in jail.

Transport Minister Mohamed Mansour resigned in October over a train crash south of Cairo which killed 18 people.