CAIRO (AFP) – A building in Egypt’s capital, where two floors had been added illegally, collapsed overnight, killing 15 people and burying seven more in the rubble, emergency services and officials said Tuesday.
Countless buildings in the teeming city of more than 20 million have been put up in defiance of the most elementary rules of construction, often without permission, rescue services say.
The seven-storey building in the poor Matariya district in the east of the city came down in the middle of the night.
“Fifteen people died, eight were injured and relatives say another seven are trapped under the rubble,” Cairo’s emergency services deputy director Gamal al-Galawa told AFP.
The department’s chief, General Mamduh Abdelkader, said earlier that investigators were still investigating the cause of the collapse but that illegal construction work was suspected.
“We don’t yet know the cause of the accident but we have been told that two storeys were recently added illegally,” Abdelkader said.
An AFP journalist said rescuers working to clear the debris were struggling to manoeuvre their equipment in a very narrow alleyway.
Relatives of the missing and onlookers were digging with bare hands in the rubble. Residents both of the building and the neighbourhood told AFP of building work and two floors added illegally.
Mohammed al-Bishlawy, district prosecutor for eastern Cairo, told AFP he has opened an inquiry and asked for the arrest of the building’s owner.
He blamed the accident on “renovation work in a second-floor apartment that has affected the structure of the building and the addition of two floors without permission”.
Deadly building collapses are not uncommon in Egypt, where safety and planning regulations are widely flouted. Landlords often add extra floors to buildings whose foundations were not designed to support them.