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Rescue Crews Search for Survivors in Collapsed Building

October 28, 1996

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Rescue workers using cranes and sniffer dogs today pulled 15 survivors from the ruins of a collapsed 12-story apartment building in suburban Cairo, but said dozens of other people were trapped inside.

Since the Sunday night collapse, 15 bodies have been removed, and police say more than 60 people remain unaccounted for. Six survivors were rescued Sunday.

Police detained a building contractor and an engineering consultant for questioning today, saying they may have been responsible for weakening the building’s structure by ordering the removal of walls during the renovation of an apartment.

The building’s owner also was arrested, police said.

Some residents of the 40-apartment building jumped from their balconies as the concrete-block and plaster building crumbled, neighbor Ahmed Mohammed said. He said he heard two loud noises Sunday evening, then could seen nothing but a huge cloud of dust being thrown up by the collapsing walls.

All but the back side of the building fell, piling debris five stories high.

As cranes moved huge slabs of concrete today, dogs prowled the ruins and listening devices were brought in to listen for tapping or calls for help. Family members, some crying, gathered at the site in suburban Heliopolis, an upper middle class residential and commercial area on the east side of Cairo.

Egyptian television said the structure housed an X-ray clinic and patients could have been trapped there. A Jordanian national who had been visiting the clinic was among the dead.

Relatives of two Saudi diplomats were missing and feared buried under the rubble, Egypt’s Middle East News Agency reported. They included the wife and four children of Lufti Moussa, a Saudi diplomat assigned to Cairo, and the sister of Ahmed el-Turki, the kingdom’s deputy minister of communications, the agency said.

Government officials said it was not clear what brought down the 30-year-old building.

Gen. Mukbil Shafri, commander of the corp of army engineers supervising the rescue effort, said some changes apparently had been made to the columns supporting the front of the building, the Middle East News Agency said.

The building’s caretaker told reporters Sunday that for the last week, a construction crew had been working on the first floor, removing walls and making other changes to get the space ready for a bank.

An earthquake of roughly magnitude 6 rocked the Middle East on Oct. 9, and perhaps weakened the building’s foundations.

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