The Deweiqa Crisis – Finally Contained?

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The recent rockslide in El-Deweiqa was shocking by all means. At about 8am, the houses shook and the terrified residents heard a sound like an explosion. To their great shock, they found an enormous rock of about 100 tons resting on about 35 houses and burying ‘Ezbet Bekheet’ with 500 persons underneath. The authorities could not bring bulldozers inside the region due to the narrowness of the spaces between the houses so they decided to move people from their homes in order to get the bulldozers inside. Till now, the death toll reached 95 and 58 injured but still there are hundreds of people lying under this deadly rock.


The causes of the crisis at first indicated a natural catastrophe, but it turned out to be another problem of mismanagement. The sewage system at this place is primitive and due to this the sewage water turns acidic and dissolves the lime rocks of Muqattam. Besides, workers were working on the mountain’s restoration and this process was under the supervision of Manshiet Nasser’s headquarters. However, opposition deputies accuse the Egyptian government for being responsible for this accident. They believe that the corruption in the Local Councils, the disarrangement between different governmental sections and the continuous building processes that the rock cannot bear are the reasons behind the slide.


The government, on the other hand, came up with lots of announcements and declarations. The strangest ever was Dr. Ahmed Nazif’s announcement, “we were going to give them new apartments after four weeks but fate didn’t grant them a delay.” Cairo governor, Abdel Azim Wazeer, announced that families of victims will be given 5000 L.E and families of the injured will be given 2000 L.E (I have been always hearing these two numbers since 1992 earthquake and all the crises that came after!). On September 8th, President Hosny Mubarak had a meeting with all officials to discuss the repercussions of this catastrophe. The government also moved about 93 families from their rooms over the mountain. The government furthermore declared that they will give 2000 apartments with complete services and without any financial burdens to the families that were harmed by the rockslide.


Programs like ‘90 Minutes’ (“Teseen Daqiqa”) discussed this accident thoroughly. They called Alaa Abdel Moneim, a member in the People’s Assembly Council, and he commented on the whole situation “There are programs like “Teseen Daqiqa” which showed reports on 9/1/2008 concluding that this rock will fall.” He also commented that “The officials are not concerned with people but rather with satisfying those who have placed them in their positions!” Dr. Tarek Heggy, an Egyptian writer and an management expert, said “All accidents can be avoided…Deweiqa’s accident could have been 100% avoided and it exposes that our problem is a management problem”. Another strong comment was issued by the Egyptian journalist Karam Gabr “those fallen rocks should not have fallen on poor people but on ‘kaam ras kebira’ (some high tier heads) so that they could feel what happened to those people and so the law would may be executed more strictly!”


As soon as they heard about the accident, organizations and NGOs started finding ways to help those people who have lost their homes, their parents, their children, their relatives, their neighbors, almost everything! Among the helping hands were following NGOs, El Bedaya as well as ADEW (the Association for Development and Enhancement of Women), Sama for Development, Resala Nour Ala Nour and The Egyptian Food Bank, who did a great effort in providing food and beverage and basic shelter for the victims.


Based on insider information from different NGO representatives the families were relocated to tents offered by the Egyptian Red Crescent either at El Fustat or at a nearby youth center. But the majority of the survivors however remained on the street near the rockslide area in hope of hearing any news of their families and relatives that are still under the rocks. “The Food Bank exerts great effort in feeding all those people at the site and at the camps. NGOs and many associations are providing help but the problem is that we need professionals. We need some international organizations to supervise the situation”, one of the NGO representatives points out, “We need more doctors as the Egyptian Red Crescent’s are not enough and diseases started to appear starting with diarrhea and gastroenteritis. This is a critical issue. I believe there will be a disaster in Manshiet Nasser!” People living at the rockslide site area are estimated at about 1000 and “if this accident with this great number of people happened in any other country, the international relief would have moved yet the attempts are few”, she adds. The chances of getting all victims out alive diminishes day by day.


The main needs were sanitized water as well as milk and food in addition to basic shelter and medication. During the aftermath, there were rumors that police officers prevented NGOs from providing people with food, yet was resolved a few days later by providing NGOs with permits to enter the site. Another few days later and (some media turmoil later), the situation somewhat stabilized as the government provided about 300 new apartments on the top of El Muqattam and about 95% of the rockslide victims were housed, rather unexpectedly and in a very short time, we were told from the same source.


In a more coordinated effort NGOs combined their efforts and joined forces to contain the crisis as much as possible by providing shelter, furniture and psychological help for traumatized survivors. Even though the government now relocated and granted the victims aide, this accident should have been prevented. “Why don’t we move before the disaster happens? Why didn’t the government relocate the people in slums before the accident took place if they really have built those buildings for them? Why can’t the poor live like human beings, in good and clean houses? All these questions need to be answered because we are already expecting worse to come. We, all Egyptian citizens, need to live a good life. We need justice, we need equality. In fact, we need help!”

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