19 tourists killed as balloon explodes at Egypt’s Luxor

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Updated 27 February 2013
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19 tourists killed as balloon explodes at Egypt’s Luxor

CAIRO: A hot air balloon caught fire and exploded over Egypt’s ancient temple city of Luxor during a sunrise flight on Tuesday, killing 19 tourists including Japanese and Koreans, sources said.
The balloon which was carrying 21 people was flying at 300 meters (1,000 feet) caught fire when it caught fire, a security official said.
An employee at the company operating the balloon said the pilot and one tourist survived by jumping out of the basket before it plunged to the ground. Both have been taken to hospital.
The employee, who declined to give her name, told AFP the tourists were from Korea, Japan and Britain, as well as one Egyptian.
Earlier a security official reported 19 people dead but said they were from Hong Kong, Japan, France and Britain.
“This is terrible, just terrible,” the employee told AFP by telephone. “We don’t yet know what happened exactly or what went wrong,” she said.
The balloon had been floating over the west bank of Luxor, one of Egypt’s most renowned archaeological sites and home to the famous Valley of the Kings and the grand Temple of Hatshepsut.
The British foreign office could not immediately confirm if any Britons had died in the crash.
“We are aware of reports (that Britons might be among the casualties). We are making inquiries,” a foreign office spokesman said.
In 2009, 13 foreign tourists were injured when their hot air balloon hit a phone mast and crashed at Luxor. Sources at the time said the balloon was overcrowded.
The crash comes amid widespread anger over safety standards in Egypt following several deadly transport and construction accidents.


Libyan coast guard picks up almost 1,000 migrants in one day

Updated 50 min 46 sec ago
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Libyan coast guard picks up almost 1,000 migrants in one day

  • The western coast of Libya is the main departure point for thousands of migrants fleeing wars and poverty and trying to reach Europe
  • A witness watching the arrival of another coast guard ship at Tripoli’s Abu Sittah naval base said a third group included 490 migrants picked up off Qarabulli town

TRIPOLI: Libyan coast guards picked up 948 African migrants on inflatable boats in several operations and also recovered 10 bodies on Sunday, officials and a witness at a naval base said.
The operations brings the number, since last week, of mainly African migrants trying to head to Italy but brought back to Libya to almost 2,000.
The western coast of Libya is the main departure point for thousands of migrants fleeing wars and poverty and trying to reach Europe.
The number of crossings has dropped sharply since July 2017 when an armed group expelled human traffickers from a smuggling hub after an Italy-backed deal.
“The coast guards picked up illegal migrants in different groups. The first group is 97 on one inflatable boat and the second group is 361 migrants on two inflatable boats,” Naval forces spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters.
“The second group was taken to Khums town,” Qassem said, adding that the two groups included 110 women and 70 children.
A witness watching the arrival of another coast guard ship at Tripoli’s Abu Sittah naval base said a third group included 490 migrants picked up off Qarabulli town. Among them were 75 women and 20 children.
Libya plunged into chaos following the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with many armed groups and two administrations vying for power.
Most migrants try to head across the Mediterranean toward Italy, hoping they will be picked up by ships run by aid groups and taken there, although many drown before they are rescued.
Earlier this month, Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini vowed to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving one ship stranded at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered them safe harbor.
Italy criticized Malta on Sunday over its refusal to take in a Dutch-flagged aid vessel with more than 230 migrants on board.