Egypt’s prime minister readies emergency plan as heavy Nile floods expected

Ahram Online , Tuesday 15 Sep 2020

Water levels are higher than usual this year due to increased rainfall at the river’s source

File photo: Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly during a news conference in Cairo. REUTERS

Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has directed officials to prepare an emergency plan to secure all service facilities in light of a recent rise in Nile water levels, which may cause some areas adjacent to the river to be flooded.

The Egyptian irrigation ministry said in late August that it expects the annual Nile flood to be higher than average this year due to increased rainfall effecting the Blue Nile, but said it was still too early to confirm the extent of the flooding.

In a meeting with a number of ministers on Tuesday, Madbouly reviewed the state’s preparations to deal with floods amid the increase in water levels.

Madbouly urged preparedness to drain additional water and to remove pollutants in both the Rashid and Damietta branches of the Nile in northern Egypt.

He also ordered a plan be prepared for the immediate evacuation of all institutions and houses on land near the two branches of the river if water levels rise to a certain level.

Maps of the areas most vulnerable to water rises around the country are set to be prepared and sent to governors so that they can take the necessary measures, he directed.

The land next to the two branches of the Nile hosts many construction violations, Madbouly also said.

The annual Nile flood takes place in August, September and October, a result of the rainy season in the Ethiopian highlands.

At the meeting, Water Resources Minister Mohamed Abdel Aati reviewed the state’s efforts to contain the Nile floods, including the development of the Toshka lakes behind the Aswan Dam in 2019.

He also referred to the preparedness of equipment at the Aswan Dam, as well as at the Edfina barrages on the Rashid branch of the river and at the Faraskur barrages on the Damietta branch.

Abdel Aati said letters had also been sent to governors in preparation for the floods.

He noted that the two branches of the Nile are capable of containing larger quantities of water than the amount expected, but their capacity might be affected due to building violations. He said preparations had been made for all possible scenarios, however.

Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker, Local Development Minister Mahmoud Shaarawi, Housing Minister Assem El-Gazzar and Transportation Minister Kamel El-Wazir all attended the meeting.

In an August meeting with the committee for regulating the flow of the Nile, Abdel Aati referred to floods in Sudan’s Khartoum and the increased water level there, saying the ministry coordinates and exchanges information with the Sudanese irrigation ministry and carries out joint water level measurements.

Abdel Aati ordered officials to continue removing illegal structures on waterways, especially those on the Nile, as such encroachments limit the capability of the water networks to contain excess water during flooding.

Floods in Sudan and South Sudan in recent weeks have killed dozens of people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

In March this year, widespread flooding caused by two days of heavy rain across Egypt killed at least 20 people, the cabinet said, saying such conditions had not been seen for 35 to 40 years.

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