Thursday,23 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)
Thursday,23 May, 2019
Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Rockslide in Moqattam

There were no casualties when a boulder from the Moqattam Plateau crashed down on a built-up area this week, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and Cairo Governor Galal Al-Said toured the Manshiet Nasser district this week to assess the damage caused by a two-ton boulder from the Moqattam Plateau that crashed down on it on 3 January, thankfully not causing any casualties.

As workers cleared the rubble from the Al-Duweiqa informal housing area of Manshiet Nasser, evacuating more than 80 families as they did so, Mehleb said that there were more than 1,300 informal housing areas in Egypt, of which 340 are not safe for habitation.

“The government is studying the possibility of evacuating the most dangerous areas and providing residents with alternative housing,” he said.

There were no reports of compensation for residents of the area, but the prime minister said that LE500 million from the Tahia Masr fund will be used to renovate the Al-Duweiqa district.

“This project is due to be completed by the end of the year,” he added.

The government’s quick action prevented a humanitarian disaster in this case, since only one week before the slide took place it had decided to evacuate the area of its residents.

Official spokesman Hossam Al-Qawish said that in the event the rockslide caused little damage and no human casualties or injuries were reported. “Several houses were flattened, but the families who lost their houses have been relocated to Badr and Sixth October Cities,” he said.

Damaged houses were torn down to prevent their being reinhabited and causing danger to residents. Head of the Manshiet Nasser municipality Mohamed Noureddin said, “Around 13 houses in danger were torn down and 85 families were relocated to alternatives. Twenty-seven families have been provided with alternative units in Badr City and the others relocated to Sixth October. Each of the new apartments is 60 square metres in area,” he added.

“These houses are temporary ones until the units in the Al-Asmarat district three km from Manshiet Nasser have been completed.”

Noureddin said that some families had gone to governorate and municipality offices claiming the right to alternative housing. “These people have no documents proving their residence in the area’s houses. They should return to where they came from,” he said.

Abdel-Samie Desouki, one of the former residents, expressed his disappointment at having to leave the area in the wake of the slide. “I will be moved to Badr City, which is far from my work place as I work as a waiter in a café downtown. I don’t know how much the rent of the new place is either, and I won’t be able to afford it if it is LE150 as is rumoured,” he added.

Noureddin said the rent had yet to be set by the governorate. “Residents will be provided with two months’ grace in order not to burden them with further obligations,” he said.

Al-Qawish urged residents of the area to cooperate with the authorities and to move to the new locations as soon as possible. “There will be no further extension of utilities, and the whole district will be evacuated within the coming few years,” he said.

Al-Hussein Hassan, former head of the Al-Duweida district, warned against allowing residents to continue to inhabit a dangerous area. “They should be moved within the next few months, as the area lacks proper utilities and security,” he said.

“People residing in the area might not have the luxury of waiting for a few more years, and the Moqattam cliffs could collapse anytime over them,” he added.

More than 25 million people live in informal housing areas that fringe Egypt’s cities, often in ramshackle dwellings built without any regulation. Many of them are migrants from the countryside seeking work in Cairo.

The Al-Duweiqa district, begun in the late 1960s, has now swelled to an area of more than 1.2 million people squeezed into two square miles of narrow lanes and ramshackle apartments.

The National Institute for Geophysical Research, a research centre, earlier issued a report warning against the dangers of building informal housing in Manshiet Nasser. Wastewater from the area was soaking into the rock beneath, dissolving the limestone and swelling veins of shale and weakening the cliff face above it, it said.

The report blamed a decree issued in 2007 that allowed the extension of utilities such as electricity, gas and water to such densely populated areas without providing wastewater drainage or sewage networks. “This resulted in wastewater seeping into the earth, which led to erosion and the increased occurrence of rock slides,” the report said.

This is not the first incident to happen in the area. In 2008, two giant rocks from Moqattam, each weighing around 45 tons, in addition to smaller rocks weighing around 10 tons, rained onto the Manshiet Nasser district. Some 103 people residing in makeshift homes were buried under the rubble.

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