Police guard the wreckage of a car in front of the National Cancer Institute in Cairo, Egypt, after an explosion that happened when a vehicle drove the wrong way and hit several other cars. (H. Elrasam for VOA)
People survey the aftermath of a fiery car crash outside the National Cancer Institute in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019.

CAIRO - Last update: 1:23 p.m.

An explosives-laden vehicle driven against traffic on a major Cairo thoroughfare plowed into oncoming cars Monday.

The collision caused a massive fireball which shattered the windows and facade of Egypt's National Cancer Institute. Egypt's Health Ministry said at least 20 people were killed and more than 30 wounded. Authorities are investigating.

Egyptian investigators are seen in front of the damaged facade of the National Cancer Institute after an overnight fire from a blast, in Cairo, Egypt Aug. 5, 2019.

Amateur video showed the vehicle burning in the street outside the hospital, after it had been driven into oncoming traffic, setting off an explosion and inferno. Reports that natural gas canisters inside the hospital had detonated were later denied.

People extinguish a fire from a blast outside the National Cancer Institute, Cairo, Egypt Aug. 4, 2019.

Al Arabiya television quoted President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi as calling the incident "a cowardly terrorist act."

Youssry al-Badri, an analyst at Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, told al Arabiya TV authorities are investigating and that "all options are on the table." He stressed that the area surrounding the National Cancer Institute houses a number of other medical research establishments and is "vitally important to the country."

He added that Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has tasked a major Egyptian construction firm to "repair the damage to the hospital, as quickly as possible."

Health Minister Hala Zayed told Egyptian television that victims have been rushed to other area hospitals.

She said 42 ambulances evacuated the dead and wounded from the area outside the  hospital and that most were taken to two other facilities. She added that more than 30 people were seriously wounded and that health officials are still combing the area outside the cancer institute and the nearby Nile River for more bodies.

Passersby look at all that is left of a minibus that was destroyed in afiery explosion in Cairo, Egypt. (H. Elrasam for VOA)

A middle-aged man told Egyptian TV he witnessed the explosion and its aftermath. He said the explosion caused windows at the hospital to shatter and chunks of glass to shower the area, as vehicles in the street burned.

Al Jazeera TV, which belongs to the Qatari government — long at odds with Egypt — tried to discredit the Egyptian government's reporting of the situation. Egypt often accuses Qatar of supporting terrorist groups which attack security forces in the Sinai and elsewhere in the country.

Arab media reported several days ago that Egyptian terrorist Hisham al Ashmawi, a former special forces commander captured by Libyan forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hafter and handed over to Egypt in May, recently confessed to recruiting terrorists in both Syria and Libya.

Hafter was also in Cairo in recent days to discuss the military situation in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. His forces have traded accusations with Islamist militias around Tripoli of attacking hospitals and killing wounded soldiers.

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