Egypt balloon tragedy

Relatives of Hong Kong balloon victims gather at crash site in Egypt

Hong Kong mourners perform rituals and lay white chrysanthemums in field where loved ones died after viewing debris from explosion

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 March, 2013, 5:14am

Relatives of the nine Hong Kong tourists who died in last week's hot-air balloon explosion made a tearful pilgrimage to the site of the disaster in Egypt yesterday.

They gathered in the field where the balloon crashed near the village of Hager El Dibie, west of Luxor, to perform mourning rituals.

Accompanied by Hong Kong officials, the families - who had made the one-hour flight south from Cairo - lit incense and made offerings of fruit.

Each family member carried white chrysanthemums, which they laid at the site after making three customary bows.

They were joined by Chinese embassy officials and local villagers and their children, who also arrived to pay their respects.

The scorched earth where the flaming Sky Cruises balloon fell - in sight of the Valley of the Queens - was ringed with flowers as the grief-stricken relatives gathered in the sugarcane field.

Wearing face masks, they shook their heads as they viewed the remains of the burnt-out air balloon basket and shreds of balloon material.

Armed guards patrolled the area but did not stop people from approaching the debris of the balloon in which the victims took their final journey.

Surveying the crash site and placing incense sticks in the ground, the weeping elder brother of Siu Chi-man, 37, who died along with his wife Eleni Kwan Pui-man, also 37, said: "Please come back home."

Also at the ceremony were the Poon family, who lost father Poon Lau-tim, 62, mother To Sau-ching, 58, and daughter Carmen Poon Tak-sze, 33.

The Ho family mourned the loss of Ho Oi-hing, 54, Ho Oi-ying, 58, Ho Oi-ming, 60, and Tang Yuk-ling, 59.

There are 10 relatives of the victims in Egypt. Nine flew into Cairo from Hong Kong on Wednesday while one was part of the ill-fated tour.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry Department of Consular Affairs' deputy director-general Qiu Xuejun confirmed that Chinese officials had already met the Egyptian authorities.

He said they had promised to report back to the Chinese authorities at the end of their investigations, which would take another two to three weeks.

Qiu said once all the bodies had been identified, they would be transported home "as soon as possible".

DNA samples of the three unidentified victims were flown back to Hong Kong yesterday. The test results are expected within a week.

The relatives returned to Cairo last night to continue making arrangements for the return of the victims' remains.

Meanwhile, Egypt was rocked by another tourist tragedy after reports last night that a bus carrying mainland visitors had overturned, killing one passenger and injuring 13. The bus was on the way to the Abu Simbel temples in the south of the country.