At least 24 dead in Alexandria building collapse

Ahmed Sabri - Alexandria, Wednesday 16 Jan 2013

Alexandria's latest building collapse highlights allegations of widespread corruption between officials and landlords when it comes to regulating the city's housing sector

Egyptians stand in rubble after an eight story building collapsed in Alexandria, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. (Photo: AP)

At least 24 people have been found dead and 11 others injured after a building collapsed in Al-Maamoura, a district located in the eastern part of Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city.

Following public outcry, Alexandria police arrested two owners of the building that collapsed on Wednesday before reffering them to prosecution for further investigation.

Rescue workers at the scene say the majority of residents fled to the ground floor during their hurried attempt to escape the collapse in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Workers rescured at least two survivors but fear at least 10 bodies still trapped underground.

Health ministry officials reported that they earlier received distress calls from the trapped victims.

Warning signs

The collapsed building held at least 24 apartments, each apartment occupying one family.

Tarek Wafiq, Egypt's minister of housing, admitted that the government should be held responsible, but also pointed out that the building was never licensed.

"We need to pause and think about the reasons behind these accidents. This is a result of long-time corruption," he said, adding that a law regulating construction sites in Egypt is currently being reviewed under the Shura Council, the country's upper house of parliament.

However, residents of Al-Maamoura warned provincial authorities about an imminent collapse, citing their complaints about sewage water that flooded their neighborhood following days of heavy rainfall.

The flooding, they say, allowed cracks to form on the apartment building along with two others that were evacuated by military rescue forces later on Wednesday.

Mohamed Abdel-Moneim El-Sharkawy, undersecretary of the ministry of health in Alexandria, told Al-Ahram Arabic news website, that one of the dead included a man who felt the building was unsafe managed to escape with his wife and daughter. When he returned to warn his neighbours, it was too late. Another victim included an 18-month-old girl.

Most of the reported injuries were of bone fractures and blood clots.

El-Sharkawy also said the eight-storey building that collapsed in the early morning was built five years ago, adding that several actions and violations had been filed against its construction.

Mohamed Abbas Atta, the Governor of Alexandria, told state-owned news agency MENA, that the building, situated on El-Rehab Street, was constructed without a license.

The incident highlights allegations of widespread corruption between officials and landlords when it comes to regulating the housing sector in heavily populated areas.

In 2008, at least 11 people were killed in Alexandria after a four-storey building collapsed at night while residents were asleep.

A similar collapse in July 2012 killed at least nine people, and in October that year, another four were killed.

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