Egypt Building Collapse Leaves Deep Wounds

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Summer Said, Arab News

Published — Thursday 9 June 2005

Last Update 9 June 2005 3:00 am

ALEXANDRIA, 9 June 2005 — The collapse of an apartment building in the Alexandria suburb on Tuesday night continued to make its impact felt in the city — both in human and political terms, prompting bitter accusations that negligence and corruption are undermining public safety in Egypt.

Alexandria governorate immediately announced yesterday demolition orders for buildings in the central of the city, a major residential and shopping area close to where the building collapsed killing at least three children, three women and a man and injuring another 17. Ten people were believed to be trapped under piles of concrete and metal in the ruined block.

After the tragedy it emerged that the regional housing administration had failed to enforce several demolition orders issued against the building’s owner.

A building license for three floors was granted in line with Alexandria construction code but a further two floors were subsequently added.

Alexandria Governor Muhammad Abdel Salam Mahgoub said that the owner “tried to add three more floors recently ignoring the existing building codes.”

Tenants, who are being currently treated at the Alexandria Public Hospital, said they sent repeated complaints about the safety of the building — just a month before the collapse, when the owner was trying to add more stories. They added, however, that the authorities did not listen to their complaints.

Amina Muhammad, who was among dozens of people who witnessed the tragedy, while she was waiting to collect her son from the next door school said she heard screams from people trapped inside the ill-fated building.

“But there was nothing I can do about it,” said Muhammad. “I was terrified that the building might have fallen on my child and his friends in the school.”

She describes how she stood, screaming, as the bodies of a child and two women were pulled from the rubble one hour after the collapse. This tragedy is one of a series of similar incidents — each greeted with outrage by the authorities, who pledge that something will be done. But the survivors of this latest collapse say promises of change have led to nothing.

A report by the director of engineering of the Housing Ministry, Manar Hosni, found that more than 90 percent of buildings in major cities like Cairo and Alexandria have violated building codes.

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