The balloon which was carrying at least 20 foreign tourists was flying at 300 meters when it caught fire and then exploded in mid-air near Luxor killing 18 people, Al Ahram state-run news agency said. 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 transferred to the hospital for treatment.
The pilot survived by jumping from the basket when it was 10-15 meters from the ground.
The dead were from Britain, France, Japan and Hong Kong, the state news agency MENA reported, citing a security source.
According to Al Ahram, Egypt’s prosecutor-general Talaat Abdallah has launched an investigation into the hot air balloon accident with a team of prosecutors arriving in Luxor to look into the case on Tuesday afternoon.
It was one of the worst accidents involving tourists in Egypt and likely to push Egypt’s tourism industry deeper into recession.
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.
Luxor, which stands on the banks of the river Nile is a major destination for tourists visiting but Egypt’s tourism industry has suffered amid the political instability that has rocked the country since the beginning of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011.