Graft Cited in Deadly Egypt Collapse
Shoddy materials, illegal construction and a culture of corruption were blamed Saturday for the deaths of more than three dozen people buried when a 12-story apartment building crumbled to the ground.
Six days after the collapse of the building in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria, 33 bodies had been pulled from the rubble of the building, which was originally seven stories tall but had had five more added in recent years.
Alexandria”s governor, Gen. Adel Labib, said at least 10 bodies were still believed to be inside, all victims of Egypt”s worst building collapse in years.
The high death toll has prompted accusations that corrupt officials take bribes to allow illegal and subpar construction. Illegal building is pervasive in Egypt, with large numbers of apartments put up without permits.
“Owners often bring influential people to reside in the apartments to protect the buildings from demolition orders,”” Labib was quoted as saying by the government daily Al-Ahram.
Labib said there are some 31,000 known building violations in Alexandria, a city of near 5 million people. At least 6,500 buildings in the city are near collapse, city council head Tariq al-Qii told Al-Ahram.
Only three residents of the building, which collapsed Monday, have been found alive, MENA reported.
The local government had previously ordered the building, located in the Loran suburb, to be demolished or renovated since it was built without permission more than 25 years ago, according to the MENA.
Egyptian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the owner of the building, who is believed to be in Kuwait, and have summoned local officials for questioning, local media has reported.
Officials have also arrested two contractors and a local city council member, who has been released on bail, local reports said.
Prosecutors are also summoning local building officials from the past 10 years, including some who are retired, for questioning about the construction, the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. Engineering officials examining the building have found that there was misuse of materials in the construction, the paper said, without elaborating.
Mohammed Mursi, an engineer and leader from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt”s largest opposition movement, accused “government neglect”” and corruption of being behind the collapse. “There are violations in building codes, in issuing permits, in carrying out demolition orders, all ignored because of bribes,”” he said on the Brotherhood Web site.
The building collapse is the latest in a number of major deadly accidents that have raised public anger over government neglect. In February 2006, a passenger ferry in the Red Sea capsized, killing over 1,000 people, and in August that year a train collision killed 58.