Egypt's Irrigation Minister Hossam Moghazi declared a state of extreme emergency at his ministry due to the capsizing of a barge carrying 500 tons of phosphate in Upper Egypt's Qena.
The ship capsized after colliding with the foundations of the city's Dandara Bridge, reported Egypt's official news agency MENA.
Irrigation ministry spokesman Khalled Wassef told Ahram Online that the ministry and army are overseeing dredgers removing the material from the riverbed.
"Phosphate is not soluble in water so there is little risk of poisoning drinking water, though the ministry has nevertheless notified Qena's potable water station to take necessary precautions," Wassef said.
Wassef said the measure is the primary emergency action being taken, adding that the environment ministry is taking samples from the water to evaluate the effects of the incident.
An operations room at the ministry was set up to follow up on the situation and to coordinate between different administrative, policing and environmental bodies in the city to control the situation, MENA said.
The barge's captain and his deputy were able to flee to safety.
Egypt's is vastly dependent on the Nile river for its water supply. The country's annual water quota from the Nile is 55 billion cubic metres.