Egypt balloon crash kills 19 Asian, European tourists

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At least 19 foreign tourists were killed on Tueday as their hot air balloon crashed near the city of Luxor.

Nine people from Hong Kong are feared to be among the 19 after a hot air balloon exploded over Egypt’s ancient temple city of Luxor on Tuesday, the general manager of a tour operator said.

“We believe that there is a high possibility that nine of our customers have died,” Ng Do-wing of travel agency Kuoni which organized the Hong Kongers’ tour told a news conference.

A spokesman for companies that operate balloon flights in the area told Reuters one tourist and the balloon pilot had survived the accident, which happened after a gas explosion at 1,000 feet (300 meters).

Ahmed Aboud added that the tourists were from a variety of countries but did not immediately have information on their nationalities.

An employee at the company operating the balloon told AFP the tourists were from Korea, Japan and Britain, as well as one Egyptian.

“This is terrible, just terrible,” the employee told AFP by telephone in floods of tears, declining to give her name.

“We don't yet know what happened exactly or what went wrong,” she said.

Television footage on Hong Kong's Cable TV news channel showed emergency service vehicles rushing to the scene of what appeared to be scorched earth where the balloon had landed.

Earlier a security official said that 19 people had died but said they were from Hong Kong, Japan, France and Britain.

The balloon which was carrying 21 people was flying at 300 meters over Qurna, in Luxor's West Bank, when it caught fire before exploding, the official said.

The two survivors, including the balloon's pilot, have been taken to hospital, he said.

Hot air ballooning at dawn is popular with tourists who goto Luxor to visit its pharaonic temples and the tombs of theValley of the Kings, including in Tutankhamen's.

Egypt's tourism industry has suffered a sharp downturn invisitor numbers since the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, with two years of political instability scaring off foreign tourists.

In 2009, 13 foreign tourists were injured when their hot air balloon hit a phone mast and crashed at Luxor. Sources at the time said the balloon was overcrowded.