At least 20 killed by 'unprecedented' rain, bad weather across Egypt

Ahram Online , Friday 13 Mar 2020

Municipal workers work on draining a street using a pump following flooding by rainwater in the Egyp
Municipal workers work on draining a street using a pump following flooding by rainwater in the Egyptian capital Cairo on March 12, 2020, amidst a heavy rain storm. (AFP)

Widespread flooding caused by heavy rain across large swathes of Egypt on Thursday and Friday has killed at least 20 people, the cabinet said, describing the weather as “exceptional and unprecedented.”

The cabinet said in a Friday statement that Egypt has not seen such conditions for 35 to 40 years.

The deaths include at least eight people who were killed in building collapses in a working-class neighbourhood in the El-Zarayeb area of the 15 May suburb in southern Cairo, local MP Amr Al-Ashkar told Ahram Online.

The buildings were sited near spillways and so were the first to be affected by the heavy rain, he said, adding that an urgent committee has been formed by the social solidarity ministry to tackle the problem and emergency aid has been handed out to affected families. 

Some of the other fatalities were electrocuted as they walked through flooded streets, officials said.

Most of the worst weather was concentrated on Thursday, with rain and accompanying thunderstorms receding into Friday afternoon.

Photos and video footage shared online showed flood waters still inundating major roads, damaged apartments and submerged cars on Friday, however.

Schools and universities nationwide will remain closed on Saturday to allow authorities to deal with the impact of the flooding.

Cairo’s main drinking water company said on Friday afternoon that it was resuming water supply to all areas, having strategically cut off parts of the network on Thursday to allow drainage systems to tackle the influx of rainwater.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said the recent crisis has underscored the need to restructure the country's crumbling sewage and drainage systems to deal with the exceptional conditions in light of climate change. 

Improved weather 

Weather conditions in Egypt improved on Friday afternoon as the stormy winds, thunder and lighting, and torrential rainfall that hit the country the day before began to abate.

The bout of bad weather is expected to largely clear by Saturday.

A number of vacuum trucks were deployed around Cairo and in other parts of the country on Friday to tackle the floods.

Railway services, the three lines of Cairo's metro, and maritime navigation have been proceeding as normal since Friday morning, the transport ministry said.

Train movement was partially suspended on Thursday night after a collision between two trains in Cairo. The first line of the metro had also been suspended due to the weather.

According to the transport ministry, the Red Sea ports of Nuweiba, Safaga, Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada and Suez, and the ports in Alexandria governorate, remain closed.

Mostafa Waziri, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that the accumulated rainwater has been drained from a number of archaeological sites, including the Pyramids of Giza and El-Muezz Street in Islamic Cairo.

The council will follow up until the severe weather ends, he said.

The governor of Alexandria, Mohamed El-Sherif, called upon governorate residents not to leave their homes on Friday unless absolutely necessary.

The region has seen torrential rain, he noted.

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