CAIRO, Egypt, (AP) – The death toll from a devastating rock slide that buried a shanty town has risen to 38, officials said Monday as efforts to find any remaining survivors continued to lag.
A total of 38 bodies have been pulled from the site of Saturday’s disaster, the country’s Health Ministry said in a statement carried by Egypt’s state news agency. Another 57 people were injured with 21 still in hospitals Monday, the ministry said.
Hopes have fallen of finding any more survivors among the hundreds of people still believed trapped beneath the massive boulders that destroyed the impoverished neighborhood.
Anger and resentment have mounted as authorities have struggled to get heavy machinery into the devastated area to clear the large slabs that split away from the Muqattam cliffs early Saturday.
The densely populated area, part of a sprawling slum known as Manshiyet Nasr, is sandwiched between unstable cliffs and an unused railroad track.
Most rescue operations were still being carried out largely by hand and by residents. But army personnel and civil defense workers managed to cut into the railway track Sunday and demolish several houses to clear the way for some bulldozers.
Aboul-Ela Amin Mohammed, the head of the earthquake department at the National Research Institute for Astronomy and Geophysics, said the entire plateau remains in danger of further collapse.
“It is not the first time or the last time,” he told The Associated Press late Sunday. “The area is full of densely packed, informal housing with no central sewer system. … When the sewage touches the fragile surface of the limestone it changes its consistency into a flour-like paste.”
Despite residents’ pleas to a local council to provide safer housing, little action was taken, said Mustafa Mahmoud Sayyed, a five-year resident of the slum.
Sayyed said his one-floor house of bricks with a wood ceiling was built illegally near the cliff edge — after a bribe to the city council’s engineer.
Hundreds of new government-provided apartments have been built just a 10-minute walk from the slums, but residents say only 5 percent of that housing is occupied because few people can afford the necessary bribes to gain a spot.
Haidar Baghdadi, the parliamentary representative of the area, told AP that 388 apartments from that complex would be made available soon to those who lost their homes. Most residents interviewed Sunday, however, said they had yet to be approached.