LUXOR, Egipto (AP) — Un globo aerostático que sobrevolaba la antigua ciudad egipcia de Luxor se incendió y cayó en un cañaveral el martes, causando la muerte de al menos 19 turistas extranjeros en uno de los accidentes más graves que se hayan registrado en su tipo y que significó un nuevo golpe para el vapuleado sector turístico del país.

Entre los muertos había franceses, británicos, belgas, húngaros, japoneses y nueve turistas de Hong Kong, dijo el gobernador de Luxor, Ezzat Saad, a la prensa. Tres sobrevivientes —dos británicos y los pilotos egipcios— fueron transportados a un hospital, donde murió uno de los británicos.

El ministro de la aviación civil, Wael el-Maadawi, suspendió los vuelos en globo aerostático y voló a Luxor para encabezar la investigación.

Fue uno de los peores accidentes de turistas en Egipto y probablemente lleve la industria turística del país a una mayor recesión.

Según un funcionario egipcio de seguridad, el globo llevaba por lo menos 20 turistas y sobrevolaba Luxor a primeras horas del martes cuando se incendió, lo que provocó que explotara su tanque de gas, y entonces se desplomó desde por lo menos 300 metros de altura (1.000 pies).

El globo se estrelló en un campo de caña de azúcar cerca de la villa al-Dhabaa, al oeste de Luxor, 510 kilómetros (320 millas) al sur de El Cairo, dijo el funcionario, que habló a condición de no ser identificado porque no estaba autorizado a hablar con los medios.

Los cadáveres de los turistas estaban esparcidos en el cañaveral alrededor de los restos del globo. Un reportero de The Associated Press presente en el lugar contó ocho cadáveres mientras eran colocados e bolsas y sacados del lugar. El funcionario de seguridad dijo que se han recuperado los 18 cadáveres.

El funcionario de seguridad agregó que se ha desechado la posibilidad de algún hecho intencional y que hecho de que inicialmente se reportaron 19 cadáveres en vez de 18 fue una confusión común tras este tipo de accidentes.

De acuerdo con un funcionario de la Procuraduría Estatal, las conclusiones iniciales indican que el accidente ocurrió cuando el cable de aterrizaje del piloto se enredó alrededor de un tubo de helio. El funcionario habló a condición de no ser identificado debido a que la investigación no ha concluido.

El director de la Oficina de Turismo de Japón en Egipto, Atsushi Imaeda, confirmó que cuatro japoneses fallecieron en el accidente. Dijo que dos eran una pareja de unos 60 años y de Tokio. No estaban disponibles de inmediato detalles sobre las otras dos víctimas.

En Hong Kong, una agencia de viajes informó que nueve de los turistas que iban en el globo eran de esa ciudad semiautónoma china. Hay "muchas probabilidades de que los nueve hayan perecido", dijo Raymond Ng, portavoz de la agencia, detallando que eran cinco mujeres y cuatro hombres de tres familias.

Esas personas viajaban con otros cuatro residentes de Hong Kong en un tour de 10 días por Egipto.

Ng dijo que nueve turistas observaron desde tierra cómo el globo se incendió alrededor de las 7 de la mañana y se desplomó dos minutos más tarde.

En Gran Bretaña, el operador turístico Thomas Cook confirmó inicialmente que dos turistas británicos habían fallecido y dos estaban en un hospital.

"Lo que sucedió en Luxor esta mañana es una tragedia horrible y todos en Thomas Cook estamos preocupados por nuestros clientes, sus familiares y amigos", dijo Peter Fankhauser, presidente ejecutivo de Thomas Cook en el Reino Unido y Europa Continental.

"Tenemos un equipo muy experimentado con los dos clientes en el hospital local y estamos ofreciendo todo nuestro apoyo a los familiares y amigos de los fallecidos en este momento difícil", dijo.

En París, un funcionario diplomático dijo que había turistas franceses entre los accidentales, pero declinó ofrecer detalles sobre cuántos eran o si había ciudadanos franceses entre los fallecidos.

Hablando a condición de no ser identificado por que no estaba autorizado a hablar a los medios, según las normas del gobierno, el funcionario dijo que las autoridades francesas están trabajando con sus contrapartes egipcias para aclarar lo sucedido. Reportes de medios franceses de prensa indicaron que dos turistas franceses estaban entre los fallecidos, pero el funcionario declinó confirmarlo.

Los vuelos en globos aerostáticos, que por lo general son al amanecer sobre los famosos tempos de Karnak y Luxor, así como el Valle de los Reyes, es una atracción popular entre los turistas que visitan la zona. Los boletos cuestan alrededor de 200 libras egipcias, equivalente a unos 30 dólares.

En el lugar del accidente ha habido otros casos similares. En 2009, 16 turistas resultaron lesionados cuando el globo en que viajaban chocó contra una torre de telefonía móvil. Un año antes, siete turistas resultaron lesionados en un percance similar.

La industria turística egipcia ha sido seriamente afectada desde el levantamiento de 2011 y los problemas políticos que siguen hasta hoy. Los hoteles de Luxor están a un 25% de capacidad en lo que debe ser la parte más concurrida de la temporada de invierno.

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  • In this Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, image taken from video obtained from Al Jazeera, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Smoke rises from a hot air balloon after it burst in a flash of flame and then plummeted about 1,000 feet to earth carrying sightseers on a sunrise flight over the ancient city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt. Nineteen people were killed on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 in what appeared to be the deadliest hot air ballooning accident on record. The balloon was carrying 20 tourists from France, Britain, Belgium, Japan, Hong Kong, and an Egyptian pilot. (AP Photo/ Al Jazeera via AP video)

  • In this Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, image taken from video obtained from Al Jazeera, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, smoke rises from a hot air balloon after it burst in a flash of flame and then plummeted about 1,000 feet to earth carrying sightseers on a sunrise flight over the ancient city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt. Nineteen people were killed on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 in what appeared to be the deadliest hot air ballooning accident on record. The balloon was carrying 20 tourists from France, Britain, Belgium, Japan, Hong Kong, and an Egyptian pilot. (AP Photo/ Al Jazeera via AP video)

  • Un agente de viajes japonés Okumura Hatsuko, derecha del primer plano, y el gobernador de Luxor Ezzat Saad, a la izquierda, depositan ofrendas florales en memoria de los turistas japoneses fallecidos en el accidente del globo aerostático en Luxor, Egipto, el miércoles 27 de febrero del 2013. Diecinueve turistas perecieron el martes 26 de febrero del 2013, cuando el globo aerostático en que observaban las ruinas arqueológicas de la ciudad, se incendió y cayó desde una altura de 300 metros (1.000 pies) en Luxor, en el sur de Egipto. Un turista británico sobrevivió además del piloto egipcio del globo, quien sufrió quemaduras de gravedad.(Foto AP/Nasser Nasser)

  • An Egyptian paramedic evacuates the body of a slain foreign tourist to be transferred to Cairo, at the morgue of the Luxor International Hospital, in Luxor, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 19 foreign tourists in one of the world's deadliest ballooning accidents and handing a new blow to Egypt's ailing tourism industry. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • An Egyptian paramedic evacuates the body of a slain foreign tourist to be transferred to Cairo, at the morgue of the Luxor International Hospital, in Luxor, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 19 foreign tourists in one of the world's deadliest ballooning accidents and handing a new blow to Egypt's ailing tourism industry. Arabic on the wall reads, "we will all return to God, there no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet." (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Egyptian paramedics evacuate the body of a slain foreign tourist to be transferred to Cairo, at the morgue of the Luxor International Hospital, in Luxor, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 19 foreign tourists in one of the world's deadliest ballooning accidents and handing a new blow to Egypt's ailing tourism industry. Arabic on the wall reads, "we will all return to God, there is no God but God, and Muhammed is his prophet." (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • EGYPT-ACCIDENT-BALLOON

    Egyptians stand by the site where a hot air balloon exploded and plunged to earth during a sunrise flight at Egypt's ancient temple city of Luxor, a day after the incident on February 27, 2013. An initial probe into a hot air balloon crash that killed up to 19 tourists has ruled out any criminal activity as a cause of the accident, state media said. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • EGYPT-ACCIDENT-BALLOON-CHINA

    Relatives of the nine Hong Kong citizens, killed in the Luxor balloon accident, speak to Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Song Aiguo (L) and Hong Kong immigration officials as they arrive at the Cairo International Airport on February 27, 2013. Four investigating teams were formed after Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Qandil ordered a probe into the hot air balloon crash on February 26, in the ancient temple city of Luxor, that killed tourists from Hong Kong, Japan, Britain, France and Hungary. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

  • EGYPT-ACCIDENT-BALLOON-CHINA

    Relatives of the nine Hong Kong citizens, killed in the Luxor balloon accident, are greeted by Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Song Aiguo (C) and Hong Kong immigration officials as they arrive at the Cairo International Airport on February 27, 2013. Four investigating teams were formed after Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Qandil ordered a probe into the hot air balloon crash on February 26, in the ancient temple city of Luxor, that killed tourists from Hong Kong, Japan, Britain, France and Hungary. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

  • EGYPT-ACCIDENT-BALLOON-CHINA

    Relatives of the nine Hong Kong citizens, killed in the Luxor balloon accident, arrive at the Cairo International Airport ahead of meeting Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Song Aiguo (C) and Hong Kong immigration officials on February 27, 2013. Four investigating teams were formed after Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Qandil ordered a probe into the hot air balloon crash on February 26, in the ancient temple city of Luxor, that killed tourists from Hong Kong, Japan, Britain, France and Hungary. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Japanese travel agent Okumura Hatsuko, holds flowers as she pays respect to Japanese tourists that died from a hot air balloon accident, in Luxor, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. A hot air balloon carrying tourists over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 and some passengers trying to escape the flames leaped to their deaths before the craft crashed in a sugar cane field. At least 19 tourists were killed in one of the world's deadliest ballooning accidents. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Japanese travel agent Okumura Hatsuko, center, pays respect to Japanese tourists that died from a hot air balloon accident, in Luxor, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. A hot air balloon carrying tourists over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 and some passengers trying to escape the flames leaped to their deaths before the craft crashed in a sugar cane field. At least 19 tourists were killed in one of the world's deadliest ballooning accidents. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Un trabajador de rescate recoge restos en el sitio donde se desplomó un globo aerostático el martes 26 de febrero de 26, 2013, cerca del pueblo de al-Dhabaa, al oeste de Luxor, Egipto. (Foto AP/Ibrahim Zayed)

  • Fotografía provista por Christopher Michel en la que aparece el sitio de donde despegaron globos aerostáticos para turistas cerca de Luxor, Egipto, el martes 26 de febrero de 2013, poco antes de que uno de los globos de accidentara, matando a por lo menos 18 personas. (Foto AP/Christopher Michel)

  • Fotografía provista por Christopher Michel en la que aparece el lugar de donde despegaron globos aerostáticos para turistas cerca de Luxor, Egipto, el martes 26 de febrero de 2013, poco antes de que uno de los globos de accidentara, matando a por lo menos 18 personas. (Foto AP/Christopher Michel)

  • Equipos de rescate inspeccionan el sitio donde se desplomó un globo aerostático el martes 26 de febrero de 26, 2013, cerca del pueblo de al-Dhabaa, al oeste de Luxor, Egipto. (Foto AP/Hagag Salama)

  • Una bolsa negra de plástico envuelve el cadáver de una persona que fue víctima de un accidente de globo el martes 26 de febrero de 26, 2013, en un camino de tierra cerca del pueblo de al-Dhabaa, al oeste de Luxor, Egipto. (Foto AP/Hagag Salama)

  • Rescue workers and civilians search for bodies at the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, Luxor Governor, Saad told reporters. (AP Photo/Hagag Salama)

  • Rescue workers prepare to remove a body from the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, Luxor Governor, Saad told reporters. (AP Photo/Hagag Salama)

  • Egyptians gather at the site of a balloon crash where the remains of the burned gondola are seen, outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, Luxor Governor, Saad told reporters. (AP Photo/Hagag Salama)

  • Rescue workers remove a body from the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, Luxor Governor, Saad told reporters. (AP Photo/Hagag Salama)

  • Ezzat Saad

    Egyptians and Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad, fourth left, inspect the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, Luxor Governor Saad told reporters. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Zayed)

  • Ezzat Saad

    Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad, center, speaks to reporters in al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, Luxor Governor, Saad told reporters. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Zayed)

  • Remains near the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Zayed)

  • Egyptian rescue workers carry the dead bodies of foreign tourists, near the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. The casualties included French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, Luxor Governor Ezzat Saad told reporters. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Zayed)

  • Egyptian rescue workers collect remains at the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Zayed)

  • An Egyptian rescue worker collects remains near the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Zayed)

  • An Egyptian rescue worker collects remains near the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Zayed)

  • An Egyptian rescue worker collects remains near the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 18 foreign tourists, a security official said. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Zayed)

  • In this image made available by Christopher Michel, the launch site near Luxor in Egypt, shortly prior to a hot air balloon explosion which killed at least 18 tourists including a number of tourists Tuesday Feb. 26, 2013. Witnesses described hearing a loud explosion before seeing plumes of smoke as the balloon caught fire and plunged into a sugar cane field west of Luxor, which is 320 miles (510km) south of the capital Cairo. The casualties are believed to include British and French tourists, as well as other nationalities, a security official in the country said. (AP Photo/Christopher Michel)

  • In this image made available by Christopher Michel, the launch site near Luxor in Egypt, shortly prior to a hot air balloon explosion which killed at least 18 tourists including a number of tourists Tuesday Feb. 26, 2013. Witnesses described hearing a loud explosion before seeing plumes of smoke as the balloon caught fire and plunged into a sugar cane field west of Luxor, which is 320 miles (510km) south of the capital Cairo. The casualties are believed to include British and French tourists, as well as other nationalities, a security official in the country said. (AP Photo/Christopher Michel)

  • Egyptians gather near the scene of a balloon crash outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field on Tuesday, killing at least 19 foreign tourists, a security official said. (AP Photo/Hagag Salama)

  • FILE - In this Wednesday, May 24, 2006 file photo, tourists take a hot air balloon tour over Luxor, Egypt. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, killing at least 19 foreign tourists, a security official said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Anan, File)

  • FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 file photo, tourists ride a hot air balloon before sunrise in Luxor, Egypt. A hot air balloon flying over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor caught fire and crashed into a sugar cane field outside al-Dhabaa village, just west of the city of Luxor, Egypt, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, killing at least 19 foreign tourists, a security official said. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)

  • EGYPT BALLOON ACCIDENT

    Map locates Luxor, Egypt, where a hot air balloon crash killed foreign tourists