A hot air balloon caught fire and exploded over Egypt’s ancient temple city of Luxor during a sunrise flight on Tuesday, killing 19 tourists including Japanese and Koreans, sources said.
The balloon which was carrying 21 people was flying at 300 metres caught fire when it caught fire, a security official said.
An employee at the company operating the balloon said the pilot and one tourist survived by jumping out of the basket before it plunged to the ground. Both have been taken to hospital.
The employee, who declined to give her name, told AFP the tourists were from Korea, Japan and Britain, as well as one Egyptian.
Earlier a security official reported 19 people dead but said they were from Hong Kong, Japan, France and Britain.
“This is terrible, just terrible,” the employee told AFP by telephone. “We don’t yet know what happened exactly or what went wrong,” she said.
The balloon had been floating over the west bank of Luxor, one of Egypt’s most renowned archaeological sites and home to the famous Valley of the Kings and the grand Temple of Hatshepsut.
The British foreign office could not immediately confirm if any Britons had died in the crash.
“We are aware of reports (that Britons might be among the casualties). We are making inquiries,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.
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 crash comes amid widespread anger over safety standards in Egypt following several deadly transport and construction accidents.
[Image credit: Alley of the ram-headed sphinges in front of Karnak Temple via Shutterstock.com.]