British and French tourists are among the dead after an Egyptian hot air balloon catastrophe at dawn this morning.
It is reported that at least 19 foreign tourists, including British and French nationals, died when the balloon crashed near Luxor, Egypt. Only two people are believed to have survived the crash after eyewitnesses claimed to have heard a loud bang while the balloon was at a height of 1,000ft, following which it fell from the sky in flames and crashed into a sugar cane field.
The tourist contingent aboard the balloon is believed to have comprised two French, two English, nine Chinese and four Japanese, according to tour operator, Kuoni, but Belgians, Egyptians and Koreans have also been mentioned by other sources. The number of Britons killed is yet to be confirmed by the UK government, with a statement from a Foreign Office spokesman saying only, ‘We are aware of the reports and we are making urgent inquiries with the authorities in Egypt.’
According to EgyNews, a gas explosion caused the crash, while the governor of Luxor, Ezzat Saad, told Nile News that the balloon’s Egyptian pilot was in hospital suffering from 70 percent burns.
Dawn Balloon trips over the famous Valley of the Kings and Karnak temple antiquities have long been popular with foreign visitors to Luxor, a centre for tourism on the banks of the river Nile in east-central Egypt. Following a previous accident in 2009, when a balloon crash-landed injuring 16 people, including two British women, such trips were suspended for 6 months and new safety standards were brought in. These included additional pilot training, a restriction on the number of balloons operating at the same time and flights only being launched from a designated balloon airport.
The Egyptian tourism authorities will fear that this latest catastrophe will further damage the country’s tourism interests, which are already suffering due to political unrest.