Phosphate-carrying barge still in Nile: Egyptian official

Reem Gehad , Thursday 23 Apr 2015

Efforts are still ongoing to take out the capsized barge after it sunk in the Nile, sparking fears of contamination

Nile River
Boats travel in the Egyptian Nile River in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

Efforts are still ongoing to take out the sunken barge from the Nile that was carrying phosphate, a spokesman for Egypt’s National Water and Sanitation Company told Ahram Online Thursday.

Mohey El-Serafy said the phosphate is still inside the barge that capsized in Upper Egypt’s Qena on Tuesday evening. Authorities are still trying to make the heavy barge float.  

The incident sparked fears among Egyptians over the safety of drinking water from the Nile following the phosphate spill. However, the government has repeatedly announced that the phosphate is not soluble and that drinking the water will not cause any harm.

Officials have said the samples extracted did not show any signs of contamination. Some water stations in Upper Egyptian governorates were closed as a precautionary measure in the wake of the incident but were later reopened again after examinations.

El-Serafy told Ahram Online that the barge was carrying phosphate stone usually extracted from El-Odaysat area in Upper Egypt and was transporting it to factories in Abu Zaabal, north of Cairo, to produce nitrates for agricultural manure.

He said that phosphate only poses danger if it is crushed to powder and applied with caustic, giving off phosphorous.

The barge capsized after colliding with the foundations of the Qena’s Dandara Bridge. No casualties were reported and the captain and his deputy were able to flee to safety.

Egypt is dependent on the Nile River for its water supply. The country's annual water quota from the Nile is 55 billion cubic metres.

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