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Thomas Cook removes Egypt hotel guests after UK couple dies
[LONDON] British tour operator Thomas Cook said it is removing all its customers from a hotel in Egypt after a UK couple staying there died in unexplained circumstances and other guests fell ill.
The company said late Thursday it was unclear what caused the deaths of the Britons, reportedly in their 60s, who had been staying at the plush Steigenberger Aqua Magic Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.
The tour operator said all of its other customers at the Steigenberger - reportedly 301, according to the BBC - had the choice of relocating to another hotel in Hurghada or returning home.
Thomas Cook said it was "deeply saddened" by the incident, while indicating "the circumstances of their deaths are still unclear."
"We have also received further reports of a raised level of illness among guests. Safety is always our first priority, so as a precautionary measure we have taken a decision to remove all our customers from this hotel."
The BBC said there were a total of 1,600 guests at the hotel.
Red Sea regional governor Ahmad Abdallah told AFP that the couple had died on Thursday, identifying them as John Cooper, 69, and his 63-year-old wife Susan, who was a Thomas Cook employee.
The couple, who come from Burnley, a town in northwest England, were on holiday with their daughter Kelly Ormerod.
Mr Abdallah said John Cooper died in hospital after suffering exhaustion, followed by his wife who collapsed at the hotel on hearing the news.
The governor ruled out "criminal motive".
But Ormerod said: "We have no cause of death. A post-mortem is under way.
"Dad never went to hospital: he died in the hotel room in front of me. I went to hospital in the ambulance with Mum, where she passed away," she told Lancashire radio station 2BR.
"As a family we are devastated... we are in utter shock.
"Mum and Dad were fit and healthy. They had no known health problems."
Dieter Geiger, general manager at Steigenberger Aqua Magic, told AFP the hotel was "deeply saddened" by the incident.
He added: "The doctor's preliminary report indicates that death was due to natural causes. There are no indications to support allegations of an increased incidence of illness at the hotel."
Britain's foreign ministry said it was assisting the deceased couple's family.
"We are supporting the family of a British couple who died in Hurghada, Egypt and we are in contact with the local tour operator," it said in a statement.
The ministry's travel advice for British nationals in Egypt remains unchanged and is under "regular review", it said.
Thomas Cook said customers due to travel in the coming weeks to the hotel - which the tour operator gave a 96-per cent rating in an audit last month - would be offered alternative holidays.
Egypt's key tourism industry has been recovering from a devastating blow in 2015 when jihadists bombed a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 on board.