3 arrested in connection with Cairo building collapse
At least 7 killed, dozens trapped
October 28, 1996
Web posted at: 10:45 a.m. EST (1545 GMT)
In this story:
From Cairo Bureau Chief Gayle Young
CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Using everything from their bare hands
to bulldozers, rescue workers in a Cairo suburb Monday sifted
through a mountain of debris searching for dozens of
residents missing since the collapse of an upscale 12-story
(18 sec./980K QuickTime movie)
The owner of the building and two
engineers who worked for him were arrested in connection with
Sunday night's incident, which killed at least seven people
and injured about 20. At least 20 people have been rescued
from the rubble.
In 1993, building owner Rauf Wissa Ibrahim was fined the
equivalent of $35,700 and ordered to rebuild the structure,
which was declared unsafe. He did not do so, according to a
statement from Egypt's Interior Ministry.
The statement says Ibrahim received a permit in 1969 to build
a seven-story structure and permission in 1977 to add one
additional story. Instead, he built an additional five
stories over the years, the government alleges, making a
total of 40 apartments in the building.
The exact number of people in the building at the time of the
collapse was not known, but police said that up to 100 people
may be trapped in the ruins. As rescue efforts proceeded,
anxious family members waited nearby for news of their loved
ones. "Daddy and grandfather. They're in there," said one
After the first rescues were made, searchers stopped using
heavy machinery for fear of further jeopardizing the
remaining survivors. "I'm Mostafa. I'm Mostafa. I've got
three others here with me," cried a man wedged beneath a
wall. An emergency medical team amputated the man's legs
after unsuccessfully trying to lift the wall with cranes.
Only a corner of the 25-year-old building remained standing.
A heap of concrete chunks and steel reinforcement rods was
all that remained of the rest of the building, which
collapsed like the folds of an accordion.
Because of a housing shortage in Cairo, it's not unusual for
landlords to add floors to existing buildings in order to
create more apartments. Municipal authorities have tried to
condemn unsafe structures but the task is daunting. It's
estimated up to 75 percent of all new Cairo buildings are
Neighbors say workers doing renovation recently removed
support columns for lower floors. "It's what we call
successive collapse," said engineer Milad Hanna. "One column
after the other and then that part of the building
Egyptians are increasingly frustrated with what they say are
greedy landlords and lax enforcement. "The government should
control these buildings because the people don't know when a
building is unsafe," said one bystander.
"The landlord should be hung," said another Cairo resident.
"How many innocents have been killed, how many old people and
Officials say it could take a week to dig through the debris.
The building is located in the Heliopolis district, about two
blocks away from the residence of Egyptian President
Reuters contributed to this report.
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