Emergency workers and vacuum trucks have been deployed all over the country to remove large quantities of rainwater from the streets. (Photo: Ahram)
Egypt has been hit with a wave of heavy rainfall that left at least five people dead, forced the closure of major intercity highways and caused power and water cuts.
Five people died in the country’s south on Thursday due to the bad weather conditions, officials said.
The people who died on Thursday include a 35-year-old man who was killed in a wall collapse in Upper Egypt’s Sohag governorate, a seven-year-old child who was killed in a building collapse, and a motorist who was killed when storm winds blew his car into a canal in Qena, also in Upper Egypt.
Victims also included a 60-year-old man who was electrocuted while walking down a street in his village in the Nile Delta governorate of Menoufeya and in the New Valley governorate, and an technician who was electrocuted while trying to fix a light pole that had stopped functioning due to the rain.
By the late afternoon, Egypt’s public traffic authority said that 10 major highways across the country have been shut down due to “strong wind and lack of visibility” and to protect the safety of drivers. These roads are mainly in the southern governorates of Sohag, Luxor, Qena and Beni Suef.
The Railway Authority also suspended train movement nationwide after the collision of two trains in Cairo, which resulted in the injury of 13 people. The movement resumed later on Thursday.
In a move rarely prompted by weather conditions, Egypt closed schools and banks and declared the day off for employees in the country’s public and private sectors.
Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Mabouly said the decision has helped emergency workers move faster to remove large quantities of rainwater from the streets.
Authorities are cutting or reducing the water supply to some areas to “boost the capacity of sewage networks to absorb rainwater,” the cabinet added in the statement.
Residents of several areas in the capital Cairo and the neighbouring Giza governorate have reported power outages and water cuts throughout the day.
Movement of the first and main line of Cairo’s metro has been partially halted, the company operating the service said in a statement. Operations are continuing normally on the metro’s other two lines, whose stations are mostly underground, it added.
Egypt’s national carrier EgyptAir said that 85 percent of flights are proceeding normally, adding in a statement on Thursday afternoon that the bad weather has only caused “slight delays” for some domestic trips.
In Luxor, the international airport has been shut down due to “unclear visibility” and to ensure the safe landing of flights, an official told Al-Ahram Arabic news website. All flights have been rerouted to the airport of the Red Sea city of Hurghada.
TV footage showed vacuum trucks draining rainwater from the streets in Cairo and other provinces.
The two major Mediterranean ports of Alexandria and Dekheila have halted the movement of ships due to the bad weather, the Alexandria Port Authority said.
Traffic authorities also closed gates on a highway running from Cairo to Alexandria due to water accumulation.
In the Nile Delta coastal Beheira governorate, citizens living in parts of the province have been evacuated to shelters as a precautionary measure, said Governor Heshma Amna, adding that the authorities are monitoring all major streets through surveillance cameras.
Local officials said that several buildings and dozens of transmission towers have collapsed due to the bad weather.
The health ministry says it has increased the number of ambulances on major roads and has sent rapid deployment teams to all governorates.
Authorities warned that Thursday would see the peak of rainfall during this stint of unstable weather, which is expected to run into next week. The governorates of Giza, Minya, Marsa Matrouh and New Valley will see the heaviest rain, the cabinet said on Wednesday.