Deluge in Aswan

Reem Leila , Wednesday 17 Nov 2021

A state of emergency has been announced in Aswan and surrounding areas following severe flooding.

Deluge in Aswan
Some villages in Aswan were hard hit by the storm

Three people died and 503 were injured after sand storms and heavy rainfall hit Aswan and the neighbouring city of Kom Ombo during the evening of 12 November, flushing scorpions and snakes from their usual habitats in Aswan and surrounding villages. The rainfall, which continued into the following day, caused mudbrick houses to collapse, injuring a further 150 people on top of those who suffered bites from venomous creatures.

The rains caused flooding in streets and led to power cuts and parts of the water supply to be cut, said Adel Sharshar, head of Aswan City Council. The dusty winds compounded the problem by uprooting trees and toppling electricity pylons.

Aswan and many surrounding villages spent a night without water and electricity, though supplies resumed gradually on 13 November.

Many roads in the area were closed to prevent accidents though Sharshar says they are being slowly reopened to traffic. Schools have also been temporarily closed because of the weather.

Shaker Abul-Maati, professor of climate and head of the Meteorology Department at the Central Laboratory for Agricultural, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the heavy rains in Aswan, one of the world’s driest cities, were a symptom of global climate change, and predicted that unusual weather advents would grow in number.

Climate change, said Abul-Maati, is causing average temperatures to increase, snow cover to melt, and increased desertification and drought punctuated by torrential rain.

Aswan, he said, experienced a similar deluge in January 2010 when strong winds brought down high voltage electricity towers causing power cuts across the governorate and flash floods destroyed homes. As it becomes hotter and drier as a result of global warming, such extreme weather events will become more frequent in Egypt.

“The weather was horrific. Thank God I was on my way to home when the rain started. Many of my neighbours had their cars crushed by the uprooted trees,” said Aswan resident Mervat Wahish.

Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar, official spokesman of the Ministry of Health and Population, said that in anticipation of extreme weather events “the ministry has allocated 2,119 ambulances and 48 four-wheel drive vehicles to the most threatened governorates, as well as 11 water ambulances to provide urgent medical care to those affected by floods.”

Abdel-Ghaffar said emergency warnings in the area remained at their highest level and emergency teams of doctors, technicians, and nurses had been dispatched to the worst affected areas.

“The ministry has set up a hotline for emergencies. Aswan governorate currently has supplies of 3,350 doses of scorpion venom, and hospitals in affected governorates have adequate supplies of blood and blood derivatives.”

Ahmed Abdel-Motagli, head of the Social Solidarity Directorate in Aswan, said the Ministry of Social Solidarity had already calculated the number of tents, blankets, mattresses, and food needed by those most affected by the flooding.

“Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine Al-Qabbaj has also ordered that residential buildings damaged by the rains be repaired, and that residents whose homes have been completely destroyed be provided with alternative accommodation in coordination with the governorate.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 November, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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