CAIRO: One person was killed in the collapse of a textile factory Sunday morning in Obour City in the Qalyubia governorate, 35 kilometers from Cairo, officials said. Five others were reported dead after being buried under the rubble for more than 15 hours.
Rescue calls to authorities were received around 8 a.m., and a rescue team was able to pull six people out, while five others were still missing, according to Adel Helal, a member of the Civil Defense Operation Room, Masrawy website reported Sunday evening.
At 9:30 a.m., it was reported that six people were buried under rubble, 22 others were injured and that one of the six was rescued, Sada al-Balad news website reported. It identified the factory as Ramzy Tex, owned by Moussa Ramzy.
Qalyubia prosecution authorities issued an arrest warrant against the owner and the engineer in charge of construction, Al-Masry Al-Youm wrote Sunday.
Claims of delayed, ineffective response
At 10 p.m., Dream TV reported from the accident scene, where victims’ families were present crying for help, but with no security presence, despite the fact the building collapsed around 5 a.m.
Until after midnight, relatives of the missing victims were calling for help on live television, and claimed it took authorities 17 hours to send construction vehicles capable of lifting the rubble. While Dream TV was conducting interviews with eyewitnesses, construction equipment could be seen moving in the background. It was the equipment of the Arab Contractors Co.
The company’s engineer on site, who claimed to have arrived an hour earlier despite previous television reports showing no one on scene, said they moved on orders from the Ministry of Housing. Nonetheless, he admitted the inability of the machinery used to move layers of concrete.
Officials and eyewitnesses stated that the factory was built over a space of 1,000 square meters. It consisted of three floors and the owner decided to add a fourth floor in violation of the law and against the capacity of the building, which caused the collapse.
Anger and Desperation
Victims’ relatives cut off the roads leading to Obour and set fire to tires, angered by the slow rescue response, despite claims that all means to help had been used, El-Watan News reported shortly after midnight. “Our demands have not been met yet,” one of the victims’ relatives said.
Others seized the opportunity to appear on television, and called on the military to intervene. One man told Youm7 that when he asked emergency personnel on site to seek the army’s help, he was told to “go call them himself.”
Housing Minister Mostafa Madbouly spoke to Dream TV 16 hours after the accident, and said the Community Civil Authority, an administrative body, did not have the required digging equipment to get through the rubble and contacted contractors to help.
“They failed to dig tunnels to save the workers, and after a couple of hours realized they needed additional equipment, which caused the delay,” Madbouly said. “Digging through heavy loads took time.”
The accident has raised concerns over authorities’ power to prevent such disasters, in addition to widely practiced building violations made without proper engineering calculations.
Madbouly stated that the head of the local community authority should be held responsible if they did not follow up on legal procedures concerning the additional floor and issue an order against it.
“Authorities don’t have the power to prevent human disasters nor deal with them once they occur,” concluded TV presenter Wael Ibrashy on his show on Dream TV Sunday night.