A hot air balloon flying over Egypt’s ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said.
It was one of the worst crashes involving tourists in the country already struggling with a decimated tourism industry, two years after the 2011 uprising that ousted former leader Hosni Mubarak.
According to an Egyptian security official, the balloon carrying 21 tourists caught fire, which triggered an explosion in its gas canister, then plunged at least 300 meters from the sky. It crashed into a sugar cane field outside al-Dhabaa village just west of the city of Luxor, 510 km south of Cairo, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media.
The casualties included French, British, Chinese and Japanese nationals, the official said. Three survivors of the crash were taken to a local hospital with critical injuries.
Bodies were scattered across the field around the remnants of the balloon. An Associated Press reporter at the crash site counted eight bodies as they were put into body bags and taken away.
Tourism is one of Egypt’s economic pillars and main revenue of foreign currency.
The site of the accident has seen other mishaps in the past. In 2009, 16 tourists were injured when their balloon struck a cell phone transmission tower. A year earlier, seven tourists were injured in a similar crash.