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.


Masked attackers kill five Syria rescuers: White Helmets

Updated 36 min 21 sec ago
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Masked attackers kill five Syria rescuers: White Helmets

  • The White Helmets said armed men stormed the Al-Hader center in a pre-dawn attack and fired on the first responders inside.
  • Four volunteers were killed on the spot and a fifth died later in hospital.

BEIRUT: Five Syrian rescue workers were killed in an attack by masked assailants Saturday on one of their centers in the northern province of Aleppo, the White Helmets said.
The White Helmets said armed men stormed the Al-Hader center in a pre-dawn attack and fired on the first responders inside.
Four volunteers were killed on the spot and a fifth died later in hospital, it wrote on Twitter.
Founded in 2013, the White Helmets are a network of first responders who rescue wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling or blasts in rebel-held territory.
The Al-Hader center lies in a part of Aleppo province controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), an extremist organization whose main component was once Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
“At around 2:00 am, an armed group stormed the Al-Hader center, blindfolded the staff members who were on the night shift, and killed five of them,” said Ahmad Al-Hamish, who heads the center.
“Two others were wounded and another two were able to flee. The attackers were masked and escaped after stealing some equipment and generators,” he said.
It was unclear whether the attack was a robbery-gone-wrong or if the center and its crew had been specifically targeted.
More than 200 White Helmets rescuers have been killed in Syria’s seven-year war, usually in bombing raids or shelling on their centers.
While attacks like the one on Saturday are rare, they have happened before.
In August, seven White Helmets members were killed in a similar attack in the town of Sarmin, in neighboring Idlib province.
Most of Idlib is held by HTS, as well as a part of Aleppo and the adjacent province of Hama.
Tensions are on the rise there, with a wave of intra-opposition assassinations and clashes leaving at least 20 rebels dead in 48 hours, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“You cannot separate the Al-Hader incident from the assassinations and other killings that have been happening more and more in recent weeks in areas under HTS control,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The population of Idlib province has swelled to more than two million people as a result of massive transfers of rebels and civilians from onetime opposition zones elsewhere in the country.
The killings come as the White Helmets are facing a “freeze” on funding from the United States, which is still reviewing over $200 million earmarked for stabilization in Syria.