Middle East

Egypt balloon flights resume after deadly crash

A general view shows the hot air balloon (top) that exploded and plunged to earth, amongst others balloons leaving a launch site near Egypt's ancient temple city of Luxor, prior to the incident on February 26, 2013. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHER MICHEL

CAIRO: Hot air balloon flights resumed in the city of Luxor on Sunday, nearly two months after a deadly accident killed 19 tourists, Egyptian officials told AFP.

Four flights took off from the ancient temple city, with around 70 tourists on board, said Ahmed Abboud who heads the Balloon Flights union.

"Egyptian authorities have tightened security measures, including a review by an aviation engineer before and after take-off," Abboud said.

Luxor governor Ezzat Saad was on the first flight to take off "to reassure people that the situation is back to normal and that balloons are safe."

He said a technical team from the ministry of civil aviation went to Luxor to monitor security checks by the balloon flight operators.

Authorities had ordered a ban on balloon flights in Luxor after the February 26 crash that killed 19 Asian and European tourists.

The ban "had a negative effect on us. It was a bad period," said Yasser al-Zembili, who owns one of the companies. "We hope the tourists come back."

The activities of the company whose balloon crashed remain suspended.

Residents and tour industry professionals had feared that the accident would keep more tourists away, as Egypt struggles to revive an industry which raises much of its foreign currency revenues.





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