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12 Die in Egypt Building Collapse

May 14, 2000

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ A five-story building collapsed in downtown Cairo before dawn Sunday, killing at least 12 people, an official on the scene said.

Two survivors had been rescued from the rubble of the residential building in Sayyida Zeinab district, Health Ministry official Dr. Hashim Allam told Egypt’s Middle East News Agency.

The death toll was expected to rise substantially, according to rescue workers on the scene and friends and relatives of residents. It was not known how many people were in the building when it collapsed at 1:30 a.m. local time.

Some 60 civil defense workers tackled the 20-foot-high mound of concrete rubble _ some using sound sensors to detect signs of life, others using metal-cutters and earth-moving equipment.

Rescuers recovered the body of resident Ashraf Mohammed, who was found hugging his son Mohammed and his wife, Abeer, also dead. His other son, earlier reported as missing, was among the first bodies retrieved.

As bodies were pulled from the rubble and identified, women in traditional headscarves let out cries and collapsed into the arms of friends. ``All the four together!″ the grieving women exclaimed, apparently after hearing that a whole family had been found dead.

As rescuers yelled through megaphones to clear children from the area, one boy yelled back: ``What’s your problem? I am here because my friend is buried under there.″

One resident, Um Ahmed, said she and her husband and daughter left their top-floor apartment at the recommendation of neighbors who said there was dust emerging from the first floor. ``Five minutes after we fled, the building collapsed,″ Ahmed said.

Among the 60 people waiting anxiously around the rubble was Gamal Ahmed Hassanein, who had arrived Sunday morning to give private lessons to a resident, Huda Amin. He said he had found no trace of the girl or her family at the site or in a nearby hospital.

The pro-government newspaper Al-Ahram said 25 people had left the building Saturday when cracks appeared in its masonry. The city council ordered landlord Yousri Mohammed Hosni to repair the building. Hosni’s body was the 11th to be pulled from the rubble, said the chief ambulance officer on the scene, Mohammed el-Bahii.

Ahmed said that on Friday, each tenant paid $299 to a contractor for repairs to the building.

A number of buildings collapsed in Cairo during the 1990s, killing scores of people. The collapses were blamed on shoddy construction and illegal alterations and additions.

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