Despite warning, old couple stayed put till Alexandria building collapsed

Ahram Online, Sunday 25 Aug 2013

Retired military general Mostafa Abdel-Hamid and his wife died; Couple reportedly refused to leave because they didn’t have anywhere else to go

At least two died in the collapse of a residential seven-storey building in Egypt’s Alexandria on Sunday afternoon. The deceased, retired military general Mostafa Abdel-Hamid and his wife, aged 65 and 55 respectively, refused to leave the building because they did not have anywhere else to go.

Abdel-Hamid’s body was recovered before the rescue team found his wife’s, according to Al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news portal.

In an online video, Alexandrian governor, Tarek El-Mahdi, said that construction authorities had asked dwellers to evacuate the building hours before its collapse.

“The two deceased refused to evacuate. It’s not their fault,” he stated.

El-Mahdi believes that Alexandria, in which a good number of buildings have collapsed over the past few years, will see similar incidents in the future as a result of “faulty construction.”

He added: “This type of real estate, built during a period of lawlessness, will ensure similar incidents are repeated.”

“Paying money [to residents newly made homeless] is not the answer; the immediate solution is to open Abdulla Nadim School and provide blankets, accommodation and rest rooms.”

“The longer term plan is to invite businessmen in Alexandria to build a number of housing units for the needy.”

“At least then, when we tell people to evacuate the building they would comply, knowing that there will be an alternative place to live.”

General Mohamed Nassar, head of the Civil Defence Department in Alexandria, suggested the building may have collapsed as a result of construction work next to it, which had ramifications for surrounding buildings.

Last February, a three-storey residential building in Alexandria’s district of Muharram Bek was also affected by construction work that was carried out in an adjacent building, according to official state news agency MENA.

The collapse of buildings in Alexandria has become commonplace, due to several factors, including their age, illegal extensions and corruption between officials and landlords in regulating the housing sector within heavily-populated areas.

On 16 January, a building collapsed in Al-Maamoura district killing twenty-eight and injuring at least eleven more.

In 2008, at least eleven were killed in Alexandria after a four-storey building collapsed at night whilst residents were sleeping.

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