The unprecedented rainstorm which rocked Egypt last week was felt the most in vulnerable neighbourhoods, none more so than Al-Zarayeb district, in the 15 May City in Helwan. The weekend storm killed more than 20 of its residents. It left many others injured and homeless due to the collapse of more than seven houses.
According to Mohamed Al-Oqbi, spokesman of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, the ministry sent emergency teams from the Egyptian Red Crescent to Al-Zarayeb. More than 300 families have been provided blankets, mattresses, food and other relief. The injured have been sent to hospitals and their condition is currently stable, Al-Oqbi said.
Al-Oqbi told Al-Ahram Weekly that almost 75 per cent of Al-Zarayeb houses are in “very serious condition” and are inhabitable. Many buildings are near rain spillways, putting them at the centre of the damage. “The ministry has formed an urgent committee to draw up different scenarios for possible solutions in order to solve the problem after providing the affected families with emergency aid,” he said.
For the time being, Al-Oqbi said, the ministry, in cooperation with various NGOs, has provided temporary shelter for residents until their homes are repaired or they are rehoused.
Affected residents must provide the ministry with documents proving they are residents of the area if they are to receive alternative housing, he stated.
Last week’s torrential storms were the second time that Egypt was hit by heavy rains since the beginning of the winter season, leading to flooded roads and tunnels. A day before Thursday’s severe storm, the government declared a nationwide day off for the public and private sectors as well as the suspension of schools and universities.
The government urged the public to stay home during the storm and to stay away from lampposts to avoid the risk of being electrocuted.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli told the media that the country had not seen since such weather in 30 years. Madbouli said there was a need to restore many of the country’s drainage and sewage systems to enable it to absorb the exceptionally huge amounts of rain.
As a makeshift solution, trucks with water pumps were deployed throughout Cairo and in other parts of the country to remove accumulated rainwater.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 March, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly