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Australians injured in Egypt balloon crash

by
January 06, 2018

Australians tourists have been injured in a hot air balloon crash in Egypt's ancient city of Luxor.

A hot air balloon carrying foreign tourists over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor has crash-landed, killing a South African and injuring at least 12 others, including a number of Australians.

Strong winds on Friday forced the balloon, which was carrying 20 tourists, off course above the southern city, home to some of Egypt's most famous pharaonic temples and tombs.

The balloon took off around sunrise and flew about 45 minutes at an altitude of 450 metres before the pilot lost control over a mountainous area, officials said, adding that the pilot was also injured.

They said other balloons had taken off around the same time but landed safely.

An official statement from the Luxor governorate confirmed that 12 people were injured.

The state-run MENA news agency, citing Egypt's health minister, said all those wounded have been treated expect for three who have undergone operations.

Tourists from Australia, France and Brazil were among those injured, it said, citing an unnamed medical official.

The agency quoted Hany al-Adawy, head of the civil aviation authority, as saying that the crash was "accidental" and that balloon flights would continue operating as usual.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to "several Australians" involved in the accident.

Earlier in the day, Egypt's meteorological service had warned of strong winds across the country, mainly in northern Egypt. The bad weather conditions have led to the closure of several Red Sea ports.

Luxor has a history of hot air balloon crashes.

The deadliest took place in 2013 when a balloon flying over the city caught fire and plunged about 305 metres, crashing into a sugar cane field and killing at least 19 foreign tourists. Ballooning experts say the accident was the worst in the sport's 200-year history.

In 2016, Egypt temporarily halted balloon flights after 22 Chinese tourists suffered minor injuries in a crash landing.

Over the years, Egypt has tightened safety rules for balloon rides, which are now monitored by cameras and banned from flying above 2000 metres.

The Civil Aviation Ministry said Friday's crash is being investigated. It said 22 balloons carrying more than 400 people had taken off and landed safely on Friday.

The hot air balloon flights are popular because they offer spectacular views of the ancient Karnak Temple and other historical sites.

The flights usually start shortly before sunrise and pass over green fields leading to the Valley of the Kings - the burial site of the famous boy king Tutankhamun and other pharaohs.

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