Geologist Says Muqattam Heights May Be Exposed to Worse Disasters

Geologist Says Muqattam Heights May Be Exposed to Worse Disasters

Ikhwanonline reporter held an interesting interview with the renowned Geologist  Professor Khaled Ouda to highlight the scientific causes of the tragic rockslide that hit Addeweqa slums in the eastern Cairo district of Al Muqattam Saturday leading to the death of more than 30 of the poor slum residents and the injury of tens others. Ouda warned of similar catastrophes in the same area, because the edges of Al Muqattam mountain have recently grew vulnerable to collapses.   

Dr. Khaled Ouda was the President of the Egyptian Working Group of the Paleocene/Eocene boundary of the International Sub commission on Paleogene stratigraphy, itself part of the International Sub commission on Paleogene stratigraphy, itself part of the International commission on Stratigraphy under the auspices of the International Union Geological Scientists (IUGS).


What is your scientific explanation for what happened at Addweqa district on Saturday?

Dr. Khaled Ouda*: What happened at Addweqa is very normal and expected since the year 1993. The edges of Al Muqattam Mountain overlooking Cairo are not normal, not stable; it was exposed to continuous breaking over time; a long time ago, ancient Egyptians used its rocks in building the pyramids, even in modern times, it is the most important source of lime stones. Many geological committees -formed since 1993- warned of such accidents.

So what was the result reached by those committees?

Dr. Khaled Ouda: They reached the result that the limestone -forming the Mountain- dissolves because water leaks into it, especially wastewater, and the fissures between rocks are widening and eroded, and so it was expected that the edges will collapse.

Some people said that the real reason for collapse is that the clay layer under the limestone shrinks; which leads to the rockslide. Is this explanation compatible with the findings of the specialized committees?

Dr. Khaled Ouda: This is not a scientific explanation. The clay layer under the limestone in this Mountain is very small and its contraction does not affect the mount rocks any way. This perception may happen if the clay layer is thick and this is found at Isna district (Upper Egypt), where it is known as Isna’s clay. It is very thick and its contraction leads to limestone collapses known as “limestone slide.”

But at Addweqa, it was a collapse resulting from water leak into limestone as it is known scientifically that limestone dissolves from water with a proportion of acid, even if it is low.

Could this happen at many other regions?

Dr. Khaled Ouda: Definitely, any building under Al Muqattam Mountain –from Maadi to Nasr City- is exposed to such accidents, as its edge is not stable and collapses are expected.

Is this edge still exposed to violations till now?

Dr. Khaled Ouda: Certainly, the permits of constructions on the mountain, the beautiful and luxurious cities seen on it everyday, are the greatest danger with its wastewater and water leak from digging foundations.

The Castle Towers project which is being built now under the foot of the Mountain will be the first area exposed to the danger.

Do you expect worst accidents?

Dr. Khaled Ouda: Yes, I expect that the Mountain itself will collapse. The Castle Towers project threatens the basis of the Mountain and it will cause a catastrophe.

So what is the alternative then?

Dr. Khaled Ouda: The only alternative is to remove all the buildings, because the upper threatens the lower. Moreover, we often check buildings on the mount with foundations’ problems as a result of the limestone dissolving under it.

The rescue men try since 10 a.m. to budge the collapsed lime blocs or break them but in vain, what is the best solution?

Dr. Khaled Ouda: The best solution is that which was used by the ancient Egyptians seven thousand years ago. It is to budge rocks as they are on vehicles made of tree trucks with many wheels and be pulled. The ancient Egyptians moved much larger blocks than these rocks from Al Muqattam district to Al Ahramat (pyramids) district at Giza governorate. Breaking the rocks is a very slow solution, and driving them in cranes is absurdity because rocks are very huge for the cranes to carry and the region is not suitable for them. 


Dr. Khaled Ouda is a Professor of Geology at Asiut University. He is also one of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders who were acquitted in the latest military tribunals which drew international criticism by rights groups and civil society organizations.