Egypt's PM accepts resignation of Alexandria governor following Sunday disaster

Mostafa Ali , Sunday 25 Oct 2015

As rain-drainage system fails millions in Egypt's second largest city and leaves five dead, government opens investigations to determine culprits of another disastrous storm season

Hani El-Mesery
Resigning Alexandria governor Hani El-Mesery (Al-Ahram)

Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail accepted the resignation of Hani El-Mesery, the governor of Alexandria, the cabinet's spokesperson Osama Abdel-Aziz announced on TV late Sunday evening. 

El-Mesery's resignation came at the end of a day which saw heavy rains flood streets and many homes, paralysing daily life and causing accidents that left five dead in the country's second largest city.

The storm, the first of many expected to hit Alexandria and the rest of the Mediterranean coast during the rainy season from October till the end of April, also caused power outages in some districts.

Meanwhile, administrative prosecutors opened on Sunday evening an investigation to determine whether public officials in Alexandria were guilty of neglect and endangerment of residents' welfare.

Earlier Sunday evening, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi summoned the full cabinet for an urgent meeting on Monday morning.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, who took office in September 2015, travelled to Alexandria in the afternoon hours in order to examine damage caused by the rain and floods.

Later in the day, Sherif announced that the cabinet would appropriate LE75 million ($9.7 million) to upgrade Alexandria's aging rain drainage system, which was largely to blame for the chaos that engulfed the city following today's rain storm.

Alexandria, home to four million people, has not seen any serious upgrade of its rain drainage system or its overall infrastructure in years. 

Due to inadequacies in civil defence (emergency) capabilities in the city, army water-suction trucks laboured to clear water from some main roads in order to allow traffic to resume.

Minutes after the storm flooded the city, pictures of cars, taxis, microbuses, and even people, all partly submerged in water, went viral on social media.

Many residents expressed anger at the authorities, including the governor, for not properly preparing for the rainy season in advance. 

Shortly after the scale of the chaos in the city on Sunday became apparent to all, a Facebook event was created by some residents calling for a protest next Friday to demand the sacking of Alexandria's governor, Hani El-Mesery. Over two thousand people swiftly replied saying they would join the event.

However, some Egyptians on Twitter said that this is a longstanding problem and that the blame should be directed at toppled president Hosni Mubarak's regime.

Tweets said Mubarak ruled for almost 30 years but overlooked the development of infrastructure.

El-Mesery, who was appointed governor in February 2015, had issued a statement on Sunday afternoon describing the situation in the city as an "ecological disaster.”

Earlier in October, the governor, in an apparent bid to alert Cairo to looming dangers that could threaten Alexandria, said he had warned the cabinet that the city has not undergone any infrastructure development projects for 15 years.

Alexandria witnesses flash floods during the rainy season on almost a yearly basis. Last year, floods wreaked havoc on the city for several days.

Prior to being governor, El-Mesery was the CEO of IFFCO Egypt, a leading company in North Africa for edible oils and fats. He was educated in California and specialised in international business.

He also worked in managerial posts in a number of renowned companies including GSF, ABB, and Bank of America.

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