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Egypt suspends Luxor balloon flights after deadly crash

BY: Sebastian Syme

The Egyptian authorities have suspended all hot air balloon flights near Luxor and launched an investigation following the deaths of 19 tourists in a crash.

Hong Kong, Japanese, British, French and Hungarian nationals were among those killed on Tuesday morning.

A landing rope is reported to have got caught around a helium gas tube and severed it, after which a fire erupted and the balloon shot up into the air.

It then plunged some 300m (1,000ft) to the ground in a field west of the city.

The pilot and one passenger survived by jumping out of the basket.

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Balloon rides are a popular way to see the numerous ancient sites which line the banks of the River Nile at Luxor, in the south of Egypt, such as the temple of Karnak and the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

The balloon which crashed was one of at least nine which took off in a field north of Luxor, on the west bank of the Nile, at dawn on Tuesday.

It was operated by the local company, Sky Cruise, which said a gas cylinder had exploded on board when it was about 300m in the air.

--BBC