Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1318, (3 - 9 November 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Floating villages

Mai Samih looks at the steps taken in the aftermath of rainstorms and flash floods that hit the south-east of Egypt

Al-Ahram Weekly

On 2 October a rainstorm unleashed floods in the south-eastern governorates of the Red Sea, particularly in the cities of Ras Ghareb, Assiut and Sohag. By the time the rain ended on 28 October Ras Ghareb had been flooded by 120 million cubic metres of water. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decree compensating floods victims by giving them LE100 million — LE50 million to those affected by the flood and further LE50 million to rebuild infrastructure for damaged areas.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail directed the Ministry of Irrigation to build three dams in Ras Ghareb to be finished before the end of winter. Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi directed the army’s Engineering Authority to assist in pumping water from damaged streets and houses in Ras Ghareb using 10 pumping vehicles, 10 graders and 20 loaders, among other equipment. The Holding Company for Food Industry said more food supplies would be given to the Ministry of Supply outlets in the damaged areas. Roads were closed until water could be pumped out.

“Twenty-two died and 72 were injured in the affected governorates,” spokesman of the Ministry of Health Khaled Megahed said.

In November last year, a similar storm followed by floods hit Alexandria, killing 12 people.

“Storms and floods in desert areas are considered good for the inhabitants of these areas because it is beneficial for their crops and for their animal resources which increase,” General Manager of the Red Sea Protectorates Ahmed Ghalab said. “We have protectorates like Wadi Al-Gemal and Gabal Elba in the south of the Red Sea governorate that benefit from these rains. This increases biological diversity in the protectorates. The problem with floods is in inhabited areas. The storms may affect the infrastructure of some buildings,” Ghalab said.

The Red Sea has three of the most important protectorates in Egypt, including sea and desert areas, according to Ghalab who issued a report on the status of the protectorates after the storms. “The first protectorate is in Hurghada, in Al-Gozor Al-Shamaleya (the North Islands) which is entirely a sea protectorate. We were instructed by the Ministry of Environment a week before the storm to provide the necessary staff and precautions including providing rescue boats if boats became stuck, but nothing happened.

“In Wadi Al-Gebal protectorate there was some rain and slight flooding in Ras Boghdadi but we the inhabitants were safeguarded. The people there know where the storm drains are and do not come near them during a storm. In Gabal Elba there were slight rains and winds, however, everything was fine in all the Red Sea cities until an unusual storm started two days ago in Ras Ghareb which was the cause of infrastructural damage,” Ghalab said.

To monitor weather in the governorates and start solving the problems, the Egyptian Cabinet Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) issued a press release stating that the Central Operations Unit had been activated by Prime Minister Ismail on 9 October. The unit monitors the implementation of a national plan to deal with floods and to limit their impact in all of Egypt’s governorates. It is implemented by the Crisis Management Sector of the IDSC.

Ismail formed a catastrophe and crisis management team on 15 October to monitor weather conditions and the readiness of the governorates to deal with the expected outcomes of such weather. Work started on 26 October. The situation was monitored in all governorates round the clock.

Ismail directed the Interior Ministry to guard areas hit by storm and roads bound to be affected, in addition to coordinating with all government agencies.

He also asked the Ministry of Irrigation to ensure there was enough equipment, working pumping stations and personnel for crisis situations and that storm drains remained clear.

In addition to the constant monitoring of the storm and subsequent floods from the operation rooms in the governorates, a government forecasting centre drew up maps where the rain would fall over the next three days. According to the press release, this helped in moving personnel and equipment to hot spots to control water drainage. This resulted in the draining of water from storms in some places while clearing mud silt from damaged roads.

The Ministry of Agriculture also formed committees in the directorates of agriculture in flood-hit areas to monitor the situation on a constant basis and to work with the government Crisis Operation Room. This was based on raising of the state of readiness in these directories, coordinating between the crisis management department at the governorate to remove the storm silting on the crops, and issuing an inventory of losses.

The Ministry of Transport was also told to monitor the weather forecast and determine the areas subjected to storms and floods. The General Authority for Roads and Bridges re-positioned equipment for ease of movement. Barriers were removed and roads re-opened, including Sohag-Qena, Safaga-Sohag and Ras Ghareb-Al-Sheikh Fadl.

The Ministry of Electricity cut power in damaged areas, including Southern Sinai, the Red Sea, Suez, Qena, Sohag, Assiut and Minia. Alternative power sources were provided for vital areas. Power was restored to damaged areas except for Ras Ghareb which was partly restored until the storm passed. There was no damage to the electricity network.

The Ministry of Health raised the state of alert to deal with expected injuries by forming a central work team in the governorates, activating crisis operation rooms in the ministry and those affiliated to it and coordinating with health directories in the governorates to deal with casualties, in addition to sending rapid deployment teams of doctors and nurses to hospitals that received the injured.

The Ministry of Local Development heightened the state of readiness in their operation rooms at the governorates. It is monitoring the situation around the clock to guide local authorities on ways of dealing with the storm according to the resources and equipment available. It also made a list of losses and moved those affected the most from damaged areas and coordinated with the Ministry of Social Solidarity to give those affected the necessary compensation.

The Holding Company for Water and Wastewater in collaboration with governors of the affected governorates used all the necessary equipment to pump out rain water. It also protected water stations from the storm and got generators for the stations to operate during power cuts. The water stations resumed after barriers were lifted. Water pipes 4.5 kilometres long in the Red Sea governorate that were damaged by the floods are currently being fixed. The company also pumped water from damaged inhabited areas.

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