At least 32 people were killed and 37 others injured in a fire broke out Monday night in a theater in the Upper Egyptian city of Beni Suef, 120 km south of Cairo, the Egyptian official MENA news agency reported.
Medical sources at Beni Suef General Hospital were quoted as saying that 29 bodies were brought to the morgue and 12 injured were in serious condition.
The fire broke out in the "Cultural Palace", a facility run by the Culture Ministry, in a downtown street in the Upper Egyptian city.
The panicked audience scrambled to escape the building after the fire was sparked by candles used in a play on the theater at about 11:45 p.m (2045 GMT) local time, witnesses said.
About 1,000 people were watching a theater group from the nearby region of Fayoum performing a play called "Grab Your Dreams" when the fire broke out, they added.
Some of those killed died in a stampede to get out, others were killed either by flames or by smoke, according to the hospital's sources.
Health Minister Dr. Mohammad Awad Taggeddin said on Tuesday morning that the wounded were receiving high-level medical care, adding a medical team specialized in burns, intensive care and serious trauma had already arrived from Cairo.
Emergency state had been declared in some Cairo hospitals in preparation for receiving some cases if necessity arises, he said.
Beni Suef is a farming town of 200,000 people. The cultural center was on the third day of a nine-day theater festival featuring plays performed by troupes from around Egypt.