Egypt hot air balloon crash kills 19 Asian tourists

Crash

A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 19 foreign tourists in one of the world's deadliest ballooning accidents and a new blow to Egypt's ailing tourism industry.

The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad told reporters. Three survivors two British tourists and an Egyptian were taken to a local hospital.

Egypt's civil aviation minister, Wael el-Maadawi, suspended hot air balloon flights and flew to Luxor to lead the investigation into the crash.

The balloon, which was carrying 20 tourists and a pilot, was landing after a flight over the southern town, when a landing cable got caught around a helium tube and a fire erupted, according to an investigator with the state prosecutor's office.

The balloon then shot up in the air, the investigator said. The fire set off an explosion of a gas canister and the balloon plunged some 300 meters (1,000 feet) to the ground, according to an Egyptian security official. It crashed in a sugar cane field outside al- habaa village just west of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, the official said.

The official and the investigator spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Bodies of the dead tourists were scattered across the field around the remnants of the balloon. An Associated Press reporter at the crash site counted eight bodies as they were put into body bags and taken away. The security official said all 18 bodies have been recovered.

Hot air ballooning is a popular pastime for tourists in Luxor, usually at sunrise to give a dramatic view over the pharaonic temples of Karnak and Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, a desert valley where many pharaoh, notably King Tutenkhamun, were buried.

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