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New Zealand mourns after balloon disaster

New Zealand is in mourning - a day after a hot air balloon accident killed 11 people near the town of Carterton on the North Island. On Saturday the balloon hit power lines and burst into flames before crashing to the ground, killing all on board. Police have cordoned off the scene of the crash, as they undertake the grim task of removing bodies. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WAIRARAPA POLICE AREA COMMANDER, INSPECTOR BRENT REGISTER, SAYING: "It's very hard to talk about. This is an accident that, the balloon, or the basket itself, when it's caught fire has burned rapidly. Coupled with that, is that it's fallen from a height, so the injuries are very bad." Bevan Lambess watched from the ground as the tragedy unfolded before his eyes. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WITNESS, BEVAN LAMBESS, SAYING: "The balloon had pulled a power line up, so it was probably three pylons high, and it was trapped, so the power line was stuck on top of the basket, the wicker basket. And it must have burned through, and released the balloon, and the balloon went skywards, and the whole balloon just went up. And the whole basket was just a ball of flame." Here, cars sit parked where the victims had left them a day earlier as they arrived for the balloon ride. In this small community, the tragedy is just setting in. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MASTERTON MAYOR, GARY DANIELL, SAYING: "We've all been very shocked with the catastrophe that's really happened, and there's sort of some disbelief that it should have happened here." Mourners brave the rain to attend St. Mary's Church in Carterton. Reverend Jenny Chalmers says everyone knew the balloon's pilot. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ST. MARY'S CHURCH REVEREND JENNY CHALMERS, SAYING: "Everyone's very sombre at the moment. Everybody knew the pilot. If they didn't know the pilot well, they knew his balloons, and everybody here loves ballooning." The area's annual balloon festival was due to start in a few weeks. However, some are concerned that balloonists would pull out of the event in light of the tragedy. Andrew Raven, Reuters

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