19 tourists killed in Egypt hot air balloon crash

Wednesday 27 February 2013 14.04
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The hot air balloon caught fire and exploded, killing 19 people
The hot air balloon caught fire and exploded, killing 19 people
A man inspects the site where the balloon exploded over the ancient temple city of Luxor
A man inspects the site where the balloon exploded over the ancient temple city of Luxor
Hot air balloon flights in Egypt underwent a major safety overhaul nearly four years (Pic: Christopher Michel)
Hot air balloon flights in Egypt underwent a major safety overhaul nearly four years (Pic: Christopher Michel)
The balloon crashed near the famed ancient city of Luxor
The balloon crashed near the famed ancient city of Luxor
A 2008 picture shows hot air balloons flying over the ancient temple city of Luxor
A 2008 picture shows hot air balloons flying over the ancient temple city of Luxor

British, French and Japanese tourists are among 19 people who died in a hot air balloon crash this morning near the ancient Egyptian city of Luxor.

The pilot is being treated for burns and one of the tourists aboard the balloon also survived.

Tourism official Ahmed Aboud said the accident was caused by a mid-air explosion in the hose between the balloon's burner and its gas canister.

The balloon was around 300m above Luxor when the blast happened.

The pilot survived by jumping from the basket when it was 10-15 metres from the ground.

Luxor province's governor told Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr that some of the bodies had yet to be identified.

Luxor is famed for its pharaonic temples and tombs of the Valley of the Kings, including Tutankhamun's.

The balloon came to ground on the west bank of the Nile river, where many of the major historical sites are located.

Hot air ballooning at dawn is a popular draw with tourists, a mainstay of the tourism economy in Egypt.

Balloon flights over the Valley of the Kings underwent a major safety overhaul nearly four years ago after a series of accidents.

In April 2009, 16 people were hurt, including two British women, when a balloon crashed during a tour of Luxor.

The balloon was believed to have hit a mobile phone transmission tower near Gourna Village on the West Bank of the Nile.

A fortnight earlier, seven tourists were injured in a similar crash.

In late February that year, three hot air balloons carrying 60 tourists crashed on the same day in separate locations.

Seven passengers suffered injuries, including broken bones.

Following the 2009 crash, early morning hot air balloon flights over the Valley of the Kings were suspended for six months while safety measures were tightened up.

During the break, all 42 pilots from the eight companies that operate flights had extra training.

Other initiatives to improve safety included confining all take-offs to a new balloon "airport" and limiting the maximum number of balloons up at the same time to eight.

Previously, as many as 50 could share the air space.