Tourists throng Egypt pyramids after bombing, but future clouded

Excited holidaymakers rode camels and queued to enter a tomb as they snapped pictures of the Great Pyramid. (AFP)
Updated 30 December 2018

Tourists throng Egypt pyramids after bombing, but future clouded

  • The attack comes as Egypt’s vital tourism sector has begun to recover after years of instability
  • A bombing hit a tourist bus killing four people on Friday

GIZA: Crowds of tourists stared in awe at the towering pyramids of Giza near Cairo on Saturday undaunted by a nearby bomb attack a day earlier that killed holidaymakers from Vietnam.

A roadside bombing ripped through a tourist bus killing three tourists and an Egyptian guide on Friday, as it traveled near the world-famous attraction.

The attack comes as Egypt’s vital tourism sector has begun to recover after years of instability and militant violence that scared visitors away.

“I think terrorism can strike anywhere in the world,” Somand Yang from South Korea told AFP.

“You have to be careful but it is also like luck.” Security forces guarded the entrance to the sprawling site and Yang, 32, said she had no qualms about visiting.

“Lightning never strikes twice in the same place. So I figured it will be even safer today,” she said.

Excited holidaymakers rode camels and queued to enter a tomb as they snapped pictures of the Great Pyramid, the only surviving structure of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Hawkers followed the tourists, doggedly trying to sell trinkets and souvenirs. Despite the steady flow of visitors, Egyptians working at the site said they were shaken by the attack — and concerned that it could hit their livelihoods.

“I knew the guide who died yesterday,” said Dalia Sadaka, as she accompanied a group of sightseers.

“I completely broke down yesterday, but I had to get to work in the morning,” she said, pointing to her visibly swollen eyes.

Earlier hit hard by a string of bloody attacks and unrest, visitor numbers to Egypt have more recently staged a partial recovery.

In October 2015, a bomb claimed by a local affiliate of Daesh killed all 224 people on board a passenger jet carrying Russian tourists over the Sinai peninsula.

That incident dealt a severe blow to Egypt’s tourism industry, which was still reeling from the turmoil set off by the 2011 uprising that forced veteran leader Hosni Mubarak from power.

The official statistics agency says arrivals reached 8.2 million in 2017, up from 5.3 million the year before.

But that figure was still far short of the record influx in 2010 when over 14 million came.

“I fear yesterday’s incident may have an impact on our source of income,” said an elderly man who offers camel rides, declining to give his name.

“It is very regretable,” he said. “We were finally happy that tourism started picking up a bit.”


Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

Updated 32 min 44 sec ago

Initial investigations point to negligence as cause of Beirut blast

  • 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures
  • A source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored

BEIRUT: Initial investigations indicate years of inaction and negligence over the storage of highly explosive material in Beirut port caused the blast that killed over 100 people on Tuesday, an official source familiar with the findings said.
The prime minister and presidency said on Tuesday that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, used in fertilisers and bombs, had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures.
"It is negligence," the official source told Reuters, adding that the storage safety issue had been before several committees and judges and "nothing was done" to issue an order to remove or dispose of the highly combustible material.
The source said a fire had started at warehouse 9 of the port and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored.
Tuesday's explosion was the most powerful ever suffered by Beirut, a city is still scarred by civil war three decades ago and reeling from a deep financial crisis rooted in decades of corruption and economic mismanagement.
Badri Daher, Director General of Lebanese Customs, told broadcaster LBCI on Wednesday that customs had sent six documents to the judiciary warning that the material posed a danger.
"We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why," Daher said.
Another source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the ammonium nitrate six months ago warned that if it was not moved it would "blow up all of Beirut".
According to two documents seen by Reuters, Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to ask the "concerned maritime agency" to re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate, removed from the a cargo vessel, Rhosus, and deposited in warehouse 12, to ensure port safety.
One of the documents cited similar requests in 2014 and 2015.
"A local and international investigation needs to be conducted into the incident, given the scale and the circumstances under which these goods were brought into the ports," said Ghassan Hasbani, former deputy prime minister and a member of the Lebanese Forces party.
Shiparrested.com, an industry network dealing with legal cases, had said in a 2015 report that the Rhosus, sailing under a Moldovan flag, docked in Beirut in September 2013 when it had technical problems while sailing from Georgia to Mozambique with 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
It said that, upon inspection, the vessel was forbidden from sailing and shortly afterwards it was abandoned by its owners, leading to various creditors coming forward with legal claims.
"Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port's warehouses," it added.