CAIRO -- A hot-air balloon exploded over the ancient city of Luxor on Tuesday, killing at least 18 people and adding fresh turmoil to Egypt's beleaguered tourism industry, which has been struggling since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak two years ago.
Authorities said the balloon was drifting at about 1,000 feet when it caught fire and the basket plummeted into sugar cane fields outside a village shortly after dawn. Officials said the dead included nine passengers from Hong Kong, four from Japan, two from France, two from Britain and one from Belgium.
The pilot, one British tourist and one Egyptian survived, officials said.
Egyptian media reported that the pilot jumped from the basket immediately before it hit the ground near the Nile River. Balloon rides over Luxor's Valley of the Kings and pharaonic temples have been popular with tourists for years.
Egypt's state news agency said a fuel line ruptured as the balloon was attempting to land. A fire erupted and wind lifted the balloon back into the air before it crashed. The General Prosecutor's office has called for an investigation, and balloon flights have been suspended.
"Those proved responsible for the accident will receive severe punishment,” said Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou, who was traveling in Iran.