A father and two children died, and five other children were seriously ill overnight Monday, after being contaminated near Cairo by an object described as radioactive, Egyptian police said.
Officials from the electricity ministry and the Atomic Energy Authority of Egypt have since retrieved the undisclosed object from the family home after encasing it in a lead container, officials in the area added.
Neighboring homes in the village of Mit Halfa, 10 kilometers (six miles) north of the capital Cairo, were evacuated overnight Monday but the authorities there insisted there was no danger to residents.
The family had inadvertently taken the object home with them from a sandy area where they had found building materials they planned to use to make home improvements, the police said.
The father, Fadl Hassan Fadl, a 61-year-old agricultural worker, died Monday night on the way to a hospital in the surrounding Qalyubiya area while his teenage son died en route to a medical center in Cairo, police said.
A teenage daughter died early Tuesday in a Cairo hospital where the five remaining children were in serious condition, they added.
The police gave few details of their symptoms other than to say that they had suffered from an extreme rash and fever.
However, a laboratory technician, interviewed at the Cairo hospital where the patients were being treated, cast doubt on whether they had suffered radioactive poisoning.
"Radiation causes bone marrow inhibition. This has not happened according to the lab tests," said the technician who did not give his name.
He gave no other details on the patients' condition.
It was not immediately possible to reach officials at the Cairo-based atomic energy authority where, officials say, the suspect object was taken for tests.
Egypt has a nuclear reactor 60 kilometers (35 miles) from Cairo at the Inshas Nuclear Research Center, where medical and other studies are carried out.
It was not clear whether the authorities suspected the object was linked to the reactor or some other source -- CAIRO (AFP)
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