Egypt hot air balloon crash: 18 tourists killed feared dead

LUXOR – British, French, Hong Kong and Japanese nationals are among 19 tourists reportedly killed in a hot air balloon crash near the Egyptian city of Luxor.
Rescue workers inspect the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor. Net photo.
Rescue workers inspect the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor. Net photo.

LUXOR – British, French, Hong Kong and Japanese nationals are among 19 tourists reportedly killed in a hot air balloon crash near the Egyptian city of Luxor.

The balloon was at 1,000 ft (300m) when it caught fire and plunged onto fields west of Luxor, officials said.

At least two people, including the balloon’s pilot, reportedly survived; apparently by jumping out of the balloon before it crashed.

Luxor is home to some of Egypt’s most famous pharaonic-era ruins.

It lies on the banks of the River Nile in the south of the country, and has long been a popular tourist destination.

The crash happened on one of the many dawn hot air balloon flights that give tourists an aerial view of Luxor’s famous sites, such as Karnak temple and the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

The balloon’s operating company confirmed that a gas cylinder exploded on board the balloon, bringing it down in an agricultural area just west of Luxor.

Cherry Tohamy’s balloon was landing when she heard an explosion and saw flames from a balloon above.

“Our pilot told us that the balloon had hit a high pressure electrical cable and a cylinder on board exploded,” said Ms Tohamy, an Egyptian living in Kuwait who was on holiday in Luxor.

People were jumping out of the balloon from about the height of a seven-storey building.”

She said ambulances were at the scene within 15 minutes.

Another witness, US photographer Christopher Michel said his balloon was just about to land when he “heard an explosion and saw smoke”.

According to Egyptian police, the victims include nine from Hong Kong, four from Japan, two from the United Kingdom, two from France and two from Egypt.

The British foreign office told the BBC it was making urgent inquiries with its colleagues in Egypt to confirm reports of British casualties.

A spokesman from the Hong Kong government confirmed that nine Hong Kong residents were in the crash balloon and a team of immigration officers was being sent to Egypt.

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