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World/National News

February 26, 2013

Balloon crash in Egypt's Luxor kills 19 tourists

(Continued)

"Tourism is dying here already and the tourists killed in the balloon will make things worse," said Mohammed Osman, head of the Luxor's Tourism Chamber. He blamed civil aviation authorities, who are in charge of licensing and inspecting balloons, accusing them of negligence

"There is no oversight, and no one is checking anything. I don't want to blame the revolution for everything but the laxness started with the revolution," he said. "These people are not doing their job, they are not checking the balloons and they just issue the licenses without inspection."

Civil Aviation Minister Wael el-Maadawi, who flew to Luxor to oversee the investigation, said the balloon that crashed had been inspected earlier this month as a requirement for renewing the company's license. Speaking to Al-Jazeera Mubasher television, he said safety standards were "normally high" and that there must have been extreme circumstances that led to the crash.

"This is a painful accident," he said. "It is premature to say whether it is maintenance or a human error until the investigation is over, whether the tube was unhooked because of a maintenance error or because it was pulled, someone stepped on it and pulled it."

The Civil Aviation Ministry, like much of Egypt's administration, has seen some political disputes since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi came to power in June as Egypt's first freely elected leader.

The ministry was long dominated by military officers or former officers, some of whom have resented control by a civilian president, particularly one who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood. In other ministries, observers say Brotherhood members have been appointed, or included as volunteers, in many posts.

One civil aviation ministry official told The Associated Press that standards have fallen since civilians were brought in to some middle-ranking positions. The official said inspections have become more lax, taking place oncee a month instead of weekly. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to speak on the issue.

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