Egypt’s National Authority for Tunnels said on Sunday that slight land subsidence had occurred around a landmark building in the affluent Zamalek district, but denied that the nearby construction of a Cairo metro extension had caused the building to partially collapse.
“Slight ground subsidence occurred at one of the corners of building number 17 in Brazil Street in Zamalek as well as at the front yard and fence of the [adjacent] Bahraini embassy," read the statement.
The building, which was once home to a number of Egypt’s golden age stars, is located near ongoing excavation work to extend Cairo's underground metro to run through Zamalek.
Residents of the 12-storey building, who have been evacuated, said they feared it might collapse.
Photos and videos were shared online showing deep cracks in the building's walls and slight subsidence outside the building and the adjacent Bahraini embassy, amid anger from the residents.
The tunnels authority said that engineering teams had taken the necessary measures to secure the building, adding that it was conducting studies to ensure the safety of the building.
The residents were given EGP 30,000 each in order to find a temporary residence until they are able to return to the building, Transport Minister Kamel El-Wazir said in TV comments late on Sunday.
Cairo Governor Khaled Abdel-Aal ordered the formation of an engineering committee to assess the building's condition.
According to the governor’s statement, preliminary inspections showed that the building had suffered some damage and vertical cracks, as well as subsidence in its garage; the neighbouring Bahraini embassy building also suffered subsidence.
The governor said the building is made of two sections: one overlooking Brazil Street with 37 residential units, including 16 currently occupied, and a second section overlooking Aziz Abaza Street, with 33 flats, 28 of which are inhabited.
The health ministry sent three ambulances to the area as a precautionary measure, but no injuries have been reported.
Since the announcement that the extension of the third metro line would pass through Zamalek, many residents of the upscale district have expressed concerns, including about the impact of the construction on the island’s older buildings.
The incident on Sunday revived those concerns. “The Zamalek Association reminds all Zamalek residents that, back in 2016, we had a meeting with the head of the Tunnel Authority and we presented a list of nine technical queries...requesting an answer to the fears and concerns of Zamalek residents," said the Zamalek Association, a local civil society group, in a statement in English.
"Their technical team promised to reply and three weeks later we were sent a CD of six hundred pages of the technical data of the whole project, irrelevant to our queries."
The association said it had replied in a formal letter saying that the tunnels authority’s cooperation was insufficient and that “it never heard from them again.”
The metro’s extended third line will run from Heliopolis to the Attaba district in Downtown Cairo and then through a Maspero stop to a new Zamalek stop, on to the densely populated district of Imbaba on the Giza side of the Nile.