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19 dead in balloon crash near Luxor: How will this affect tourism?

19 are reported dead after a balloon crash in Luxor, Egypt. The dawn hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings is popular with tourists, even after the post-Mubarak tourism slump.

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In these stills from amateur video obtained by Al Jazeera, smoke pours from a hot air balloon over Luxor, Egypt, top left, before bursting, top right, and plummeting about 1,000 feet to earth, bottom left and right, on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. The balloon crash left 19 people dead.

Al Jazeera / AP

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At least 19 people, most of them Asian and European tourists, died on Tuesday when a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed near the ancient Egyptian town of Luxor after a mid-air gas explosion, officials said.

The balloon came down in farmland a few miles from the Valley of the Kings and pharaonic temples popular with tourists. Rescue workers gathered the dead from the field where the charred remains of the balloon, gas canisters and other pieces of wreckage landed.

One Egyptian was also killed, Health Minister Mohamed Mostafa Hamed told Reuters, listing the other victims as tourists from Japan, China, France, Britain and Hungary. Earlier, officials had said all the dead were foreigners.

The balloon crashed on the west bank of the Nile, where many of the area's major historical sites are located.

Konny Matthews, assistant manager of Luxor's Al Moudira hotel, said she heard an explosion at about 7 a.m. "It was a huge bang. It was a frightening bang, even though it was several kilometres away from the hotel," she said by phone. "Some of my employees said that their homes were shaking."

Ahmed Aboud, head of an association representing Luxor balloon operators, said the fire had begun in the pipe linking the gas canisters to the burner. He said it was an accident.

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