Five people were killed on Monday while illegally digging for ancient Pharaonic antiquities in Upper Egypt’s Sohag governorate, state-run news agency MENA reported on Tuesday.
The deaths occured in two separate incidents involving excavations beneath houses.
In the first incident, four people were killed while excavating a 10-metre-deep hole beneath a house in Sohag's Tahta district. They were electrocuted by a pump used to remove water from the hole.
Details of the incident were discovered when police interviewed a number of other people involved in the excavation. One of the deceased was an 11-year old boy.
In the second incident, in Sohag’s Dar El-Salam district, a wall collapsed on a 36-year-old man as he was attempting to dig a hole. Another man who was helping him admitted to the prosecution that they were searching for antiquities.
The prosecution charged the survivors of both incidents with illegally digging for ancient artifacts for the purpose of trade. They are being detained until their trial.
Digging for artifacts without official authorization is prohibited under Egyptian law. However, artifacts continue to be unearthed and smuggled abroad each year, many of them sold to collectors or dealers for large sums of money.
Egypt continues to work with foreign nations to halt the illegal trade and track down Egyptian artifacts on the black market.