x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Egypt rocked by second tragedy in two days as building collapse leaves 17 dead

Failure to enforce building regulations blamed for tragedy in Alexandria.

The 12-storey building collapsed in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria leaving dozens trapped under the rubble.
The 12-storey building collapsed in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria leaving dozens trapped under the rubble.

CAIRO // At least 17 people were killed and eight injured yesterday when an eight-storey apartment building collapsed in Egypt's port city of Alexandria - the second tragedy in the country as many days.

Rescue teams were continuing to search for survivors under the rubble last night, said the assistant interior minister, Abdel-Aziz Tawfeeq. Military police from a nearby naval base had formed a security perimeter around the site.

The collapse came just a day after 19 police recruits were killed when the last car of a train they were on jumped the tracks and smashed into another train just outside Cairo.

It was not immediately known what caused the building collapse, which happened in a poor district of the city. However, violations of building specifications have been blamed for similar incidents.

The governor of Alexandria, Mohammed Abbas Atta, told Egypt's official news agency that the building had been constructed without a permit.

Abul Ezz El Hariri, an opposition politician from Alexandria, warned that hundreds of buildings in the city were at risk of a similar disaster, but that lax law enforcement since the fall of the former president, Hosni Mubarak, two years ago meant no action was being taken against building violations.

Residents complained that landowners in farmlands on the city's outskirts had taken advantage of the chaos and near lawlessness that followed the overthrow of Mubarak to illegally sell their land to developers who had built shoddy apartment blocks. Similar violations have taken place across much of the country during the same period, it is claimed.

Alexandria's security chief, Abdel-Mawgood Lutfi, said the building had been built five years ago and had 24 apartments.

Because the collapse happened early in the day, most of the tenants were at home. Police evacuated the residents of two adjacent buildings out of concern that the collapse may have caused structural damage to them.

The collapse is likely to fuel a popular outcry against the administration of president, Mohammed Morsi, whose critics have accused him of failing to carry out reforms and overhaul the nation's deteriorating public services.

Two months ago, 50 children died when a train hit their school bus in southern Egypt. That tragedy also sparked a storm of criticism of Mr Morsi, who took office in June.

Tuesday's train crash led to protests at train stations in Cairo, Alexandria and a third city in the Nile Delta.

The demonstrators were protesting what they said was official negligence in maintaining and upgrading the country's ageing rail network.

Mr Morsi's government has blamed Tuesday's train accident on what they said was nearly 30 years of corruption and misrule under Mubarak.