updated 10/14/2009 6:47:32 AM ET 2009-10-14T10:47:32

A hot air balloon crashed in a southern Chinese resort town Wednesday, killing four Dutch tourists, state media said.

A fifth Dutch passenger and two Chinese balloon operators were injured in the accident near Yangshuo in the Guangxi region, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The scenic town set amid dramatic limestone formations is a popular destination for backpackers.

Xinhua said the balloon flew for about an hour and was descending when a fuel tank leak caused the balloon to catch fire about 490 feet above ground. Three men and one woman were killed, the report said.

The crash occurred about 20 miles south of Yangshuo in the farming village of De'an, China Central Television said in a report that showed residents gathered on a hillside, apparently trying to look at the crash site.

The three survivors' injuries were not life-threatening, CCTV said.

A press officer with the Dutch Embassy in Beijing said the consulate in the southern city of Guangzhou has sent staff to the scene. She was not immediately able to confirm the death toll or other details and asked that her name not be used, in line with embassy policy.

It was not immediately clear if the tour company that arranged the expedition was licensed to run balloon trips, and an investigation was under way, CCTV said, without naming the company involved.

Yangshuo balloon tours cost about 800 yuan ($117) per person and have become a regular feature on tourist itineraries.

Ad Mayer, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hague, said the group was believed to be on a tour of China arranged by Djoser, a Leiden-based travel company.

Calls to local authorities in De'an and Yangshuo rang unanswered.

More on: Hot air balloons

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