18 dead as wind, rains and sandstorm lash Egypt

Ahram Online and AFP, Monday 13 Dec 2010

At least 18 people died in separate incidents around the country due to bad weather, security officials told Ahram Online

Alexandria Photo by Sherif Sonbol
At least 15 people died in separate incidents around the country due to bad weather. This photo from Alexandria dates 12 December by Sherif Sonbol

At least 18 people were killed yesterday due to the bad weather that hit the country on Sunday. Police sources confirmed that 11 were killed and 58 were injured in traffic accidents around the country.  One factory building collapsed in the northern port city of Alexandria killing at least seven people and injuring 10, the state news agency MENA reported. It said the toll could rise as others were believed to be under the rubble.

"It has been raining steadily and very hard since yesterday (Saturday) in Alexandria. The building is 30-years-old and the foundations could have been damaged," a security official said.

Relief workers rushed to the scene to assist more factory workers. According to officials, there could have been as many as 30 people working at the time in the six-storey factory in the northern Alexandria neighbourhood of Moharram Bey.

Building collapses are relatively frequent in Egypt, where construction guidelines are ignored and additional floors are often built without planning permits.

At least 10 ports on the Red Sea and Mediterranean were shut due to the storms.

Maritime traffic was also affected by the weather as 26 ships were barred from entering the Suez Canal and 29 vessels were delayed for three hours before they could move through the waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.

The waterway was hit by poor visibility and winds of up to 40 knots an hour, said an official at the canal, Egypt's third-largest source of foreign revenue after tourism and remittances from expatriate workers.

High waves also closed all eight of Egypt's main Red Sea ports on Sunday for the second consecutive day, as well as the country's Mediterranean ports of Alexandria and Dekheila, officials said.

In addition, an Italian container ship was stranded off the northwestern coast of Marsa Matruh after its engines broke down, Italian diplomatic sources said.
With 21 crew members on board, the Jolly Amaranto, owned by the Ignazio Messina Maritime Company, awaited rescue, the diplomatic sources said, adding that an oil tanker and a cargo ship were in the vicinity.

Meanwhile, officials at Cairo airport said preventative measures were being taken after visibility was reduced to only 300 meters.

Temperatures in Egypt have plunged since Friday night, as thunderstorms and heavy rains hit the north coast, Red Sea region and the Sinai Peninsula.

Meteorologists say the bad weather is expected to last through Monday and they advise people to stay indoors due to a sandstorm that has blanketed the capital.

Short link: