27 Feb 2013

Tourists killed in Luxor balloon explosion

5:36 am on 27 February 2013

A hot air balloon has crashed near the Egyptian town of Luxor, killing 19 people on board.

It caught fire and exploded at an altitude of 300 metres, before plunging to the ground in fields west of Luxor on Tuesday.

The balloon was carrying 21 tourists from Hong Kong, Japan, France, Britain and Hungary. The pilot and one passenger survived by jumping.

The Sky Cruise company said a gas cylinder exploded on board, bringing it down in sugar cane fields just west of Luxor.

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

Officials said all hot air balloon flights are now banned.

"We have never seen anything quite like this in Luxor before. It is an awful thing," Luxor governor Ezzat Saad told the BBC.

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.

The BBC reports balloons were grounded for six months after that crash.