Three British tourists killed in Egypt balloon disaster
'I heard an explosion and saw smoke' says witness after balloon bursts into flames 300m above Luxor
EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this story was published it has been reported that three Britons were killed in the crash and one survived.
TWO British tourists were among 19 people killed when a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed into fields west of the Egyptian city of Luxor this morning.
Witnesses describing an explosion shortly before the balloon plunged into sugar cane fields. The pilot and one tourist survived the accident, according to a spokesman for companies that operate balloon flights in the area. It is believed the crash was caused by a gas explosion at an altitude of about 300 metres.
NBC News says the victims include nine Chinese citizens from Hong Kong, four Japanese, two British and two French citizens. Two of the people killed remain unidentified. An Associated Press reporter at the crash site said he saw eight bodies being put into body bags and taken away.
Luxor, which is built on the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes and has been described as "the world’s greatest open air museum", is a popular destination for tourists. Balloon trips usually take place at sunrise over the Karnak and Luxor temples as well as the Valley of the Kings.
American photographer Christopher Michel, who was in another balloon taking aerial pictures at the time of the crash, told the BBC: "I heard an explosion and saw smoke. I wasn't sure what had happened at first. It was only when we landed we heard the full extent of what happened."
It is not the first time a balloon has crashed in Luxor. Two British women were among 16 injured in April 2009 when their balloon hit a mobile phone transmission tower near the banks of the Nile and crashed to the ground.
A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said: "We are aware of reports of a balloon crash in Luxor and are making urgent inquiries."