Egyptian prosecution opens investigation into air balloon accident

Dalia Farouk, Ahram Online, Tuesday 26 Feb 2013

Egypt's prosecutor-general dispatches a team to investigate the hot air balloon accident in Luxor, as tourism chief blames ministry of civil aviation

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Rescue officials at the site of the hot air balloon wreckage near Luxor. (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's prosecutor-general Talaat Abdallah has launched an investigation into the hot air balloon accident that left 18 people dead in Luxor on Tuesday.

A team of prosecutors arrived in Luxor to look into the case on Tuesday afternoon, and visited the morgue in Luxor International Hospital.

The Egyptian ministry of tourism said in a statement on Tuesday morning that it had formed a committee to follow developments and determine the cause of the accident.

Tourism minister Hisham Zazou, who is currently in Tehran, said that "those proven responsible for the accident will receive severe punishment", according to the statement.
A technical committee from the ministry of civil aviation has also arrived at the site of the accident.

In addition, Luxor's governor Ezzat Saad said that he received phone calls from President Mohamed Morsi and Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, checking on the situation.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the chamber of tourism companies in Luxor, Tharwat El-Agami, held the ministry of civil aviation responsible for the accident.

He said that it is the ministry's duty to implement measures for preventing air balloon accidents and to ensure that they are safe to fly.

The last hot air balloon accident in Luxor, which left 16 people injured in 2009, led to a halt in all air balloon activity for six months until security measures were implemented. 

Other accidents took place in 2007 and 2008, but did not cause deaths. 

Egypt's ministry of health said that 18 people were killed on Tuesday morning, including 17 tourists and one Egyptian woman, when a hot-air balloon exploded in mid-air near Luxor, Upper Egypt. Reports by other news agencies said that 19 people had died.

According to the ministry of health, three people, including the balloon's pilot, were sent to Cairo for medical treatment. 

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