Egypt flooding sparks fury

Cars drive through a flooded street after a flash flood affected Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday. EPA
Updated 27 April 2018
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Egypt flooding sparks fury

  • Homes in the Fifth Settlement, one of the capital’s most affluent districts, were flooded on Tuesday and Wednesday
  • The public reacted angrily to what they regarded as incompetent management by officials

CAIRO: Extreme weather brought Cairo to a standstill this week with severe flooding that caused buildings to collapse. 

Homes in the Fifth Settlement, one of the capital’s most affluent districts, were flooded on Tuesday and Wednesday and hit by power cuts lasting hours. Motorists on Cairo’s busy ring road were forced to sleep in their cars after being stranded for more than eight hours.

And in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, a man died when a billboard on the popular coastal promenade blew away and fell on him.

Trains were delayed because of heavy rainfall and the police rescued 30 students from the Hayah International Academy after they fell down a mountain during a trip to the Wadi Degla nature reserve.

The public reacted angrily to what they regarded as incompetent management by officials.

Rain caused extensive damage to Area Ragy’s home in the Fifth Settlement when water poured through the ceiling.

“Everything is ruined in my flat. Home appliances don’t work any more and I don’t know how I’m going to pay for the damage,” said Ragy, a 28-year-old housewife. “I kept calling 122 (the police emergency number) but they did not even answer. Who should I call then when something like that happens? We were stuck with no one to give us any kind of support. No one is telling us anything. People are always on their own.”

The city’s sanitation authority set up a hotline but claimed that it had received no complaints, however residents said that they were unable to reach anyone from the authority because the chief and his deputies had their mobile phones switched off.

Others complained about the lack of equipment to pump water and mud from streets built without storm drains, and posted pictures of themselves stuck in traffic with ankle-deep water inside their cars.

“My kids and I could not get home to Maadi (south Cairo) and had to sleep in our car,” Ahmed Abdel-Latif, a 32-year-old civil engineer, told Arab News. “The kids kept crying and I couldn’t do anything for them. We did not move a meter for two hours, and we are talking here about a wealthy neighborhood that is maybe less than ten years old ... This is how our modern roads look.”

Traffic police commander Abdellah Rashad confirmed that the road from Cairo to Ain Sokhna was also closed for 60 kilometers due to “heavy rain.”

People posted photos of the collapsed ceiling at the relatively new Point 90 mall near the American University as an example of the “weak infrastructure” of the high-priced buildings in the Fifth Settlement.

“The best place for agriculture now is the Fifth Settlement,” said one Facebook post. Another read: “Villas for sale with sea view.” 

In the absence of any help from officials, activists launched their own information-gathering system using the hashtag #Kalak_Kajra_Jadidah (“so this is new Cairo”). 

Mohamed Arfan, the minister of administrative supervision, made a surprise tour of the New Cairo area on Wednesday night and quizzed workers at the electricity station about the reasons for the power cuts. He said that the city had to be better prepared in future to avoid a repeat of the disaster.

Sanitation authority officials have been called in to explain themselves as part of an inquiry into why there was apparently so much negligence.


EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

Updated 19 October 2018
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EU-Arab summit set for February 24-25 in Egypt

BRUSSELS: European Union and Arab leaders will meet in Egypt in late February for their first summit as part of efforts to forge a new European-African alliance and fight migrant smuggling, officials said Thursday.
European leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria last month as they vowed to intensify talks with Egypt and other North African countries to curb illegal migration.
“The European Council welcomes the holding of the forthcoming first summit between the 28 EU Member States and the League of Arab States, hosted by Egypt on 24-25 February 2019,” the council of EU leaders said after a summit in Brussels.
The Cairo-based Arab League includes North African countries Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as well as those in the Middle East and Gulf.
EU officials insisted the summit was about more than just migration, but part of a broader push to build closer ties with Africa outlined by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September.
“It is now much more than about migration and fighting traffickers,” an EU official told reporters.
Juncker urged the EU to strike a “new alliance” with Africa that would create millions of jobs and include a free trade deal.
The Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, hopes the strategy will both showcase its international influence and help stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
The EU also wants to boost development in sub-Saharan Africa to ease the poverty that often drives migration.
Brussels has previously struck cooperation deals with both Turkey and Libya, whose coast guard officers are trained by the Europeans to stop migrant sea crossings — despite concerns about conditions in Libyan detention centers.
The deals with the two gateway countries have helped to cut migration to Europe sharply since a 2015 peak, but the bloc wants to expand work with all north African countries.
The leaders called for “strengthening cooperation with countries of origin and transit, particularly in North Africa,” according to the summit’s published conclusions.
“Work with third countries on investigating, apprehending and prosecuting smugglers and traffickers should be intensified,” it said.
EU officials say Egypt has set a high bar in fighting traffickers and smugglers, which could be emulated by other North African countries.
The EU is increasingly focused on bolstering its external borders amid longstanding divisions over redistributing asylum-seekers who make it to Italian and other European shores.
But it is still confronted with the refusal of Hungary and other former communist eastern countries to admit migrants, particularly from Muslim countries.
And Italy’s populist government has this year turned away migrant rescue ships in a bid to force fellow EU countries to share responsibility for them.
The United Nations refugee and migration agencies, the UNHCR and IOM, had this week urged EU leaders to take steps to ensure responsiblities are shared.
They said the debate was so “dangerously toxic” in some countries that it was harder to find common solutions.
Even though fewer people were arriving in Europe, the two agencies said, the rate of people dying in the Mediterranean was increasing. More than 1,700 lives have been lost since January.