Signs of Unease Emerging in Wake of Earthquake With PM-Egypt-Catastrophe-in-Waiting, Bjt
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Signs of unease are emerging as Egyptians tabulate a rising toll of dead, injured and homeless from this week’s killer earthquake.
As aftershocks reduced more earthquake-damaged buildings to rubble, the government moved Wednesday to head off possible political disquiet.
Schools and universities were ordered to remain closed another week.
Officially, the government edict was to give inspectors time to ensure that Egyptian children can safely return to their classrooms. Traditionally, however, schools close when security forces sense trouble brewing.
Two aftershocks rippled through metropolitan Cairo on Wednesday. Ezzeddin M. Ibrahim, a government earthquake expert, said seismographs registered one at dawn at 3.7 on the Richter scale and another measuring 3.6 six hours later.
Officials at the government’s earthquake operations center refused to say how many buildings fell Wednesday. But the Cairo newspaper Al Gomhuria put the figure at nine.
Monday’s quake killed at least 471 people and injured more than 4,000. The earthquake left many thousands homeless. Some who lost their homes are becoming restive and assertive, complaining of official inaction and neglect.
Homeless mother Karima Youssef Mohamed asked a reporter to tell President Hosni Mubarak that ″his own people are sleeping in the streets and in danger.″
On Wednesday, Mubarak visited two hospitals in a working-class northern Cairo suburb where dozens of school children died in Monday’s quake.
He was accompanied through cordons of riot police by jeep loads of blue- helmeted guards in battle fatigues. Rifles bristled from the windows of two black Mercedes station wagons in front of and behind the president’s.
Such security, virtually unprecedented for Mubarak’s outings, gave a clear sign of government intent not to allow the emotional fever in the wake of the earthquake to erupt into trouble.
The fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, banned but tolerated by Mubarak’s government, already is making political points by providing shelter and blankets for homeless families throughout Cairo.
At one of the refugee camps, Fawzia Ismail, mother of four daughters, said: ″I was sleeping outside near the garbage dump until (the Brotherhood) gave me a tent to share with 11 other people. My house fell, and no one from the government came to see us.″
Although the tent cities have banners proclaiming ″Islam is the solution″ - the political motto of the Muslim Brotherhood for next month’s local elections - organizational leaders deny a political motive for the help.
″We are a humanitarian committee,″ said Dr. Ashraf Abdel-Ghaffar, secretary-general of the relief committee of the Egyptian medical association, which is running the camps. ″We don’t exploit people’s tragedies.″
The association is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mubarak has pledged $1,500 to each family that lost its home or principal wage-earner.
But Karima Mohamed, living in the Brotherhood tent city, said she has neither heard of nor received compensation. ″We need at least shelters to take refuge in,″ she said.
Mubarak estimates that victims’ compensation, relief and reconstruction from the earthquake will cost $140 million. In normal circumstances, that could be ruinous for cash-strapped Egypt.
But the president has received pledges from Arab and other nations totaling more than $193 million.
″The situation could have been worse,″ Mubarak said, ″but God has been merciful.″
The earthquake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter scale, was centered a few miles southwest of the Sphinx and the Giza pyramids. It caused only selective damage, knocking down or seriously damaging 536 buildings nationwide.
The relatively high casualty toll for a moderate quake resulted largely from stampedes.
Another major source of death and injury was Cairo’s large percentage of old, dilapidated and shoddily made buildings.
Slum dwellings house at least 45 percent of the Cairo residents, and more than half the housing in the city is illegal or unsafe.