Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1295, (12 - 18 May 2016)
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1295, (12 - 18 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Al-Andalus ablaze

Mai Samih talks to residents of Al-Rewayei Street after a fire engulfed a hotel

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Al-Ahram Weekly

A fire started in Al-Andalus Hotel on the commercial street of Al-Rewayei in Al-Ataba district at midnight Sunday. Three died and 91 people were injured

The fire started inside nearby storehouses packed with flammable products, according to a shopkeeper in the neighbourhood. Four more buildings behind the hotel caught fire, 240 shops and store houses were burnt. The Fire Department and Civil Protection forces arrived at the scene in just a few minutes but the fire was not put out completely until the following day.

Prime Minster Sherif Ismail visited the site on Monday morning to supervise recovery efforts, and monitor the investigations as to the cause of the blaze. An initial investigation said the cause may have been due to the many unauthorised electrical wire connections used by street vendors and taken from street lamps.

“The overall number of those injured was 91 of whom were attended to on the spot while the other 40 were sent to hospital, treated and discharged while three were discovered dead under the rubbles,” said Ministry of Health spokesman Khaled Megahed. The ministry sent 30 ambulances to the site and arranged for 50 beds in nearby hospitals, including those of Al-Monira, Ahmed Maher, Om Al-Masreen and Embaba.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior, guests at the six-storey Al-Andalus Hotel were evacuated as soon as the fire started. Fifteen fire engines fought to extinguish the blaze using four hydraulic ladders and two huge water tankers while civil protection forces worked to prevent the fire spreading to nearby buildings.

“I was in my shop with my assistant when things started to fall on us, or it seemed that someone was throwing them. I hurt my hand but I was given medical attention here and my assistant was rushed to hospital,” said Seifeddin, a shopkeeper in Al-Rewayei Street.

“The buildings here are very old. They go back to the time of the British occupation of Egypt and no renovation has been done, like on the buildings on the main streets. People had to take out their butane gas cylinders in case their houses caught fire. Thank God no houses caught fire.”

Seifeddin said that the Fire Department used tractors to clear rubbish left by street vendors before they could go in to put out the blaze.

“We are not sure what started the fire,” said one shopkeeper who chose to remain anonymous. “The Fire Department and the army have been doing a good job so far. The fire started yesterday at midnight in Al-Andalus Hotel. But what took them a long time to put it out is the fact that there are many merchants who store their products in nearby buildings, which include flammable paint containers. These were the buildings that caught fire.”

This is not the first fire in the neighbourhood. A week ago, a short circuit started a fire some 100 metres from the hotel. Three people were reported injured.

Mohamed Ayoub, chairman of the Hotel Facilities Chamber, told the daily Al-Ahram that Al-Andalus Hotel is not a member of the chamber but works according to a licence from the governorate of Cairo. Furthermore, it is not supervised by the Ministry of Tourism. Ayoub said it is very important that such touristic buildings be monitored by the Ministry of Tourism to “preserve the touristic reputation of Egypt”.

“Such buildings should be closely monitored by the Ministry of Tourism and the civil protection unit so that such incidents do not happen again,” Ayoub said, adding that the chamber works closely with the civil protection unit at the Ministry of Interior to ensure a proper standard of civil protection procedures in its member hotels.

Deputy Governor of Cairo Ahmed Taymour told the Middle East News Agency (MENA) that an engineering and technical committee was sent to the scene of the blaze. It is to prepare a report on damages. Taymour, who is also acting governor, said that most nearby warehouses were full of paint containers and other flammable substances which made extinguishing the fire a difficult task, at least at first.

“We need the people who started to renovate the downtown buildings in the main roads to give our street some attention so that no such incident happens again,” Seifeddin said. “The storehouses should not be in inhabited areas so that peoples’ lives are not threatened.”

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