19 killed in Egypt hot air balloon crash

February 27, 2013 - 4:59:08 am

Security personnel guard the wreckage of the hot air balloon that crashed in Luxor, yesterday. 

LUXOR, Egypt: At least 19 people, most of them Asian and European tourists, died yesterday when a hot air balloon crashed near the ancient Egyptian town of Luxor after a mid-air gas explosion, 

officials said.

The balloon came down in farmland a few kilometres (miles) from the Valley of the Kings and pharaonic temples that draw tourists to Luxor. Rescue workers gathered the dead from the field where the charred remains of the balloon, gas canisters and other pieces of wreckage landed.

One Egyptian was also killed, Health Minister Mohamed Mostafa Hamed told Reuters, listing the other victims as tourists from Japan, China, France, Britain and Hungary. Earlier, officials had said all the dead were foreigners.

The pilot survived by jumping from the basket when it was 10-15 metres (yards) from the ground, said Ahmed Aboud, head of an association representing Luxor balloon operators. Two other survivors, both British, were treated at Luxor hospital, said Mohamed Mustafa, a doctor at the hospital.

Travel firm Thomas Cook later said one of the Britons taken to the hospital had died, taking the number of British tourists killed to three. The fatalities were caused by burns and by the impact, Mustafa said.

“We believe a small number of British nationals are involved in an incident in Luxor this morning,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in an emailed statement. The Japanese embassy in Cairo said it believed four Japanese had been aboard and had sent staff to Luxor to confirm this. France’s foreign ministry said two French citizens had been killed.

Aboud said the blast had happened in the pipe linking the gas canisters to the burner. He said that it was an accident.

Transport accidents are frequent in Egypt. Dozens of children were killed in November when the bus they were on collided with a train. 

Accidents affecting foreign tourists are rarer, but not unusual. Five Germans were killed in December in a bus crash near a Red Sea resort.