Sunday,17 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)
Sunday,17 February, 2019
Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

City awash

Alexandria is battered by bad weather. Ameera Fouad reports

City awash
City awash
Al-Ahram Weekly

Winds of up to 60 mph sent waves crashing onto Alexandria’s Corniche, providing not just dramatic photo-ops but making life miserable for millions of citizens.

“On 12 January bad weather closed down two of the city’s electricity generators. As a result, five pumps serving the sewage system in Montazah shut down,” says Attiya Al-Said, head of the maintenance unit of Alexandria’s sewage system. “After ten hours of heavy rains we lost control of the situation and the streets were flooded with sewage.”

The city’s waste water system has long been at breaking point.

“It doesn’t matter what we do in terms of maintenance,” says Al-Said. “The system is hopelessly overloaded. Alexandria has more than 32,000 illegal tower blocks. Chaotic real-estate construction has overburdened the system. We don’t have the capacity to deal with demand.”

The worst affected sewage station is located in Sidi Beshr. It serves more than 700,000 residents in Gleem, Louran, Tharwat, Ikbal, Miami and Sidi Bishr.

“When the electricity supply was cut and fives pumps broke down we had no choice but to cut electricity across the system. This led to streets being flooded,” maintenance unit worker Hassan Al-Abadi told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“The streets were inundated with sewage for three days,” says Ahmed Abdel-Tawab, a resident of Khaled Ibn Al-Walid Street. “The smell was foul, the conditions indescribable.

“Garages were flooded and many drivers were forced to abandon their cars in the street. In some places the overflow reached two to three metres [deep].”

Streets were blocked. Children were unable to get to school and workers failed to reach their jobs. Across swathes of the city residents were trapped in their homes. But despite the devastation many Alexandrians responded with humour. Jokes and cartoons quickly spread on social media.

Overcoming the adverse conditions meant employing new modes of transport. People went about their business on Jet Skis, and small boats were used to ferry residents across the flooded streets.

“I never imagined I would be going to school on a Jet Ski,” says 12-year-old Hassan Abdel-Tawab. “The conditions were really bad. The smell was so strong you felt you were choking.”

Hassan borrowed his friend’s Jet Ski to reach school so as not to miss his exams.

“I was really excited. It was my first time to on a Jet Ski. But I was also frightened that I might fall into the filthy water,” Hassan told the Weekly. “I just hope the flooding doesn’t lead to health problems. The sewage stayed in the streets for days.”

In the wake of the flooding, Alexandria Governor Tarek Al-Mahdi ordered that two mattresses, four blankets and a small refrigerator be distributed to families made homeless in Shaleehat, an informal area near the Masoud Tunnel.

“Although these families illegally inhabit the area, the governorate wants to ease their distress,” Al-Mahdi told the press.

The winds also caused structural damage to the Ibn Khaldoun Mosque, where a minaret collapsed. The port was closed for three consecutive days after a ship crashed into one of the docks, damaging cargo containers.

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