Exploding Hot Air Balloon Kills 19 in Egypt
At least 19 people were killed in a hot air balloon explosion early this morning near Luxor, Egypt. A ripped gas hose caused a fire that ultimately led to the explosion in a sugarcane field, according to the New York Times. They write:
The pilot and the two passengers reportedly leapt from the burning balloon before it soared back up high into the air and burst into flames.
Most of the people killed were tourists from Europe, Japan, and Hong Kong, as well as one Egyptian. Three people survived the explosion, but one British tourist later died in the hospital, according to latest reports.
American photographer Christopher Michel was on another balloon at the time, according to Reuters. He tweeted the following photos of the balloons in the air this morning.
Photos of all the balloons in the air. twitter.com/chrismichel/st…— christopher michel (@chrismichel) February 26, 2013
More photos from Luxor twitter.com/chrismichel/st…— christopher michel (@chrismichel) February 26, 2013
The New York Times reports on the impact this incident could have on the country's tourism industry:
Rides in hot air balloons over the ancient temples and ruins along the Nile River at Luxor are a centerpiece of the tourist trade there and accidents have been relatively rare. In 2008 and 2009, balloons crashed into utility poles, injuring passengers, but no deaths were reported.
The crash on Tuesday, however, comes at a delicate moment for Egypt’s tourism industry, formerly a vital engine of the now sputtering economy and a critical source of hard currency. The industry is struggling to persuade tourists to return despite worries about safety and security after the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak two years ago.
CNN reported that Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad has banned all balloon flights "until further notice." CNN also notes that prior to this morning, the deadliest hot air balloon accident was in 1989 in Australia.
Top image: Police and rescue officials check the wreckage of a hot air balloon that crashed in Luxor February 26, 2013. A hot air balloon crashed near the Egyptian town of Luxor at dawn on Tuesday after a mid-air gas explosion, killing 19 Asian and European tourists, a local industry official and the state news agency said. (Stringer/Reuters)