LUXOR, Egypt -- Two microbuses racing down a narrow rural road in near Egypt's ancient city of Luxor collided and plunged into a canal early on Tuesday, killing 18 passengers, including eight children and four women, local officials said.

The two vehicles were carrying passengers returning from a late night wedding in a village on the west bank of Luxor and were racing each other when they collided before dawn on Tuesday, security chief Maj. Gen. Muntasser Abu-Zeid told reporters.

Egypt's state MENA news agency initially said 19 people were killed. But following the end of the rescue mission, health ministry official in Luxor Nahed Mohammed said only 18 died in the accident, including eight children aged between 18 months and eight years.

MENA said darkness had hampered rescue efforts. Local officials said the strong current also complicated the search. The body of a five year old child was found five kilometres (3 miles) away from the scene of the crash, said local politician Shabaan Haridi who was at the site Tuesday.

Traffic accidents are common in Egypt due to badly maintained roads and disregard of traffic laws. Road accidents killed about 13,000 people in Egypt last year.