New reports emerging from Egypt suggest two British tourists have survived the hot air balloon crash near Luxor this morning.

Tour operator Thomas Cook confirmed that two British tourists were dead and two were in hospital.

Although initial reports suggested 19 people were killed when their hot air balloon caught fire at 1,000ft (300m) and crashed into a sugar cane field, this figure has since been revised to 18.

According to the Egyptian security official, the balloon carrying at least 20 tourists was flying over Luxor when it caught fire, which triggered an explosion in its gas canister, then plunged at least 300 meters (1,000 feet) from the sky.

It crashed into a sugar cane field outside al-Dhabaa village just west of Luxor, 510 kilometers (320 miles) south of Cairo, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Bodies of the dead tourists were scattered across the field around the remnants of the balloon. An Associated Press reporter at the crash site counted eight bodies as they were put into body bags and taken away. The security official said all 18 bodies have been recovered.

However earlier reports suggesting two Britons were killed in the accident have been confirmed by Thomas Cook, which is working with the Foreign Office and Egyptian authorities to establish what happened.

Peter Fankhauser, CEO of Thomas Cook UK and Continental Europe said: "What happened in Luxor this morning is a terrible tragedy and the thoughts of everyone in Thomas Cook are with our guests, their family and friends.

"We have a very experienced team in [contact with] the two guests in the local hospital, and we're providing our full support to the family and friends of the deceased at this difficult time."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We believe a small number of British Nationals are involved in an incident in Luxor this morning.

"We have consular staff in Luxor who are in close contact with the Egyptian authorities and are providing consular assistance."

The other casualties of the crash include French, British, Belgian, Hungarian, Japanese nationals and nine tourists from Hong Kong, according to Egyptian media.

A travel agency in Hong Kong said there is a "very big chance" that all nine tourists from the Chinese city have been killed in the crash. There are thought to be at least two French victims and four from Japan.

One other person, believed to the Egyptian pilot of the balloon, is also thought to have survived the crash. He is reported to have survived by jumping from the balloon's basket when it was around 50ft from the ground.

'Homes were shaking'

Konny Matthews, assistant manager of Luxor's Al Moudira hotel, said she heard a very loud bang when the balloon exploded.

Matthews said: "It was a huge bang. It was a frightening bang, even though it was several kilometres away from the hotel.

"Some of my employees said that their homes were shaking."

Thomas Cook has opened a hotline for people concerned for their relatives in the resort on 0800 107 5638.