Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Black Sunday

A spate of accidents in Cairo and other governorates erodes public confidence in the competence of several authorities, writes Ahmed Morsy

Black Sunday
Black Sunday
Al-Ahram Weekly

Social media users were quick to designate 26 April as Black Sunday after a spate of accidents. There was a derailment on Cairo’s newly-launched third underground line, a partial bridge collapse in Daqahliya governorate and a devastating fire in Siwa Oasis that destroyed two acres of palm and olive plantations.

Trains on the underground line resumed operations 24-hours after an underground train came off the rails and crashed into buffers, seriously injuring the driver. In the wake of the accident trains ground to a halt as three stations were forced to close.

The train, which had just undergone maintenance, crashed while moving from secondary rails to the main line. It was not carrying any passengers.

On Monday Transport Minister Hani Dahi ordered a technical committee to be formed to investigate the causes of the subway crash. Dahi, who refuted reports that appeared immediately after the crash blaming the driver, said a failure in the metro’s operating system could be to blame.

Workers on the affected metro line staged a strike on Monday to protest the referral of the driver, who remains in the Intensive Care Unit of Ain Shams Specialised Hospital, to investigation despite no evidence having been collected.

Cairo’s third metro line links Downtown’s Al-Ataba Square to Heliopolis. The State Information Service estimates 3.5 million people use the metro on a daily basis in Cairo. Underground trains are among the fastest and cheapest ways to travel in the city. A ticket costs LE1.

On the same day, Sunday, one person was injured when three trucks overturned as a bridge in the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliya collapsed. The bridge, known as Talkha Al-Alwy, is located close to Al-Manial village.

Al-Daqahliya’s governor, Hossameddin Emam, formed a technical committee of engineers and representatives from the General Authority for Roads to examine the bridge.

Though initial reports blamed the collapse of the bridge on the regular burning of garbage beneath its pylons, preliminary investigations suggest the fault could lie with shoddy construction. It is telling that committee members and governorate officials said on Monday that the construction company that built the bridge should pay the cost of reconstruction.

A WHO study on road safety between 2012 and 2013 found Egypt had one of the world’s highest rates of road accidents and related deaths, with an average of 12,000 people killed annually. The report slammed Egypt’s road system, — a fast-moving combination of trucks, buses, cars, motorcycles and pedestrians — as the third most dangerous in the world.

Half of Egypt’s 24,000 km of main roads are slated for maintenance. On 22 July 2014 President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi launched a national project for roads. Thirty-nine roads with a total length of 4,400 km are involved in the scheme which has been budgeted at LE36 billion.  Some will be built from scratch, others upgraded. Contracts are being divided between the ministries of transport, housing and defence. The first phase of the project, allotted to the Transport Ministry, included 13 roads to be completed in one year.

Also on Sunday, a fire broke out in Egypt’s western Siwa Oasis, destroying two acres of palm and olive trees. No injuries were reported.

Fire-fighters and security forces managed to control the blaze and then extinguish it. Preliminary police investigations suggest the fire could have been caused by a cigarette and the flames spread by wind according to Al-Ahram’s Arabic website.

Siwa Oasis, located in the Western desert 50 kilometres from the Libyan border and home to 23,000 people, is one of Egypt’s most isolated settlements. Agriculture is the main activity, particularly the cultivation of dates and olives.

A similar disaster happened in April 2014 when 10 acres of olive and date plantations were destroyed by fire in the same area.

A day earlier, on Saturday, a factory fire in the Delta injured two dozen people. Abdel Hamid Al-Azim, the security director of Gharbiya governorate, told state news agency MENA it took seven hours to bring the blaze under control. Ten fire-fighters were among the injured.

On Monday a five kilometre stretch of the Banha-Kafr Al-Dawar road was closed following a landslide caused by subterranean water.

The series of disasters followed the capsizing of a barge carrying 500 tons of phosphate in the Nile close to Qena in Upper Egypt. The incident led Irrigation Minister Hossam Moghazi to declare a state of emergency.

The phosphate did not dissolve and so has not affected drinking water, the head of the state company for water said on Wednesday. Irrigation Ministry spokesman Khaled Wassef told Al-Ahram Online that the ministry had worked with the army to oversee the salvage of the barge and its cargo.

“Phosphate is not soluble in water so there is little risk of contamination, though the ministry has nevertheless notified Qena’s potable water station to take necessary precautions, Wassef said.

Health Minister Adel Al-Adawi said late on Friday that 78 samples of water had been taken from water purification plants and tested for phosphate traces in two labs belonging to the ministry.

“The samples have not shown any negative results and there is no effect on drinking water”, the minister told MENA.

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