'No foul play' in Egypt hot air balloon crash
26 February 2013, 14:01
Luxor - 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 18 foreign tourists, a security official said.
It was one of the worst accidents involving tourists in
Egypt and likely to push the key tourism industry deeper into recession. The
casualties included French, British, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from
Hong Kong, the official said.
Three survivors of the crash - two tourists and one Egyptian
- were taken to a local hospital.
According to the Egyptian security official, the balloon
carrying at least 20 tourists was flying over Luxor when it caught fire, which
triggered an explosion in its gas canister, then plunged at least 300m from the
It crashed into a sugar cane field outside al-Dhabaa village
just west of Luxor, 510km south of Cairo, said the official, speaking on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorised 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.
The official said foul play has been ruled out. He also said
initial reports of 19 dead were revised to 18 as confusion is common in the
aftermath of such accidents.
In Hong Kong, a travel agency said nine of the tourists that
were aboard the balloon were natives of the semiautonomous Chinese city. It did
not say whether all nine were killed. The information was posted on the
In Paris, a diplomatic official said French tourists were
among those involved in the accident, but would give no details on how many, or
whether French citizens were among those killed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't
authorised to be publicly named according to government policy, the official
said French authorities were working with their Egyptian counterparts to
clarify what happened. French media reports said two French tourists were among
the dead but the official wouldn't confirm that.
Hot air ballooning, usually at sunrise over the famed Karnak
and Luxor temples as well as the Valley of the Kings, is a popular pastime for
tourists visiting Luxor.
The site of the accident has seen past crashes. In 2009, 16
tourists were injured when their balloon struck a cellphone transmission tower.
A year earlier, seven tourists were injured in a similar crash.
Egypt's tourism industry has been decimated since the 18-day
uprising in 2011 against autocrat leader Hosni Mubarak and the political
turmoil that followed and continues to this day.
Luxor's hotels are currently about 25 percent full in what
is supposed to be the peak of the winter season.