26 February 2013
Last updated at 10:18
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.
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People were jumping out of the balloon from about the height of a seven-storey building”
Witness Cherry Tohamy
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.
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- Site of ancient city of Thebes
- Temples of Karnak and Luxor in city itself
- Royal tombs in Valley of the Kings and Queens lie across River Nile
- Dawn hot air balloon rides popular way to see sites
- Luxor has seen a drop in visitor numbers since the 2011 uprising
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.
Kuoni, the travel agency that organised their trip, said it believed there was a “high possibility that nine of our customers have died”.
Hot air balloon crashes have happened in Luxor before. Two British women were among 16 injured when their balloon came down after hitting a communications tower in April 2009.
Balloons were grounded after that crash amid pledges to increase safety regulations for such flights.
But, says the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Cairo, since the 2011 revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, the rule of law is not being respected in many aspects of Egyptian life, so it has been difficult for the tourism ministry to impose its authority on sites like this.
Luxor, like many other parts of Egypt, has seen a sharp downturn in visitor numbers since the uprising.
Egypt: Balloon crashes near Luxor killing 19 tourists – BBC News
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