CAIRO (AFP) – At least five people including a young girl were killed when a 12-storey block of flats collapsed in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on Monday, with many more casualties feared, a security source said.
Ambulances and civil defence teams rushed to the scene of the disaster in the Loran district in the east of the Mediterranean coastal city, where five bodies were pulled from the rubble.
The dead included a four-year-old girl, two women and two men, the source said, adding that four others had been injured and rescued.
“A large number of casualties” is still expected, however, to be found under the rubble of the building, the source added.
The source said the building was home to 40-50 people but that the accident happened in the morning, after many residents had left for work or school.
Local authorities had ordered the removal of the building’s top two floors in 1995 because they contravened building laws but the order was not implemented, the source said.
Alexandria governor Adel Labib said some workers had been renovating the first floor when the building suddenly tilted to one side and then collapsed, the official MENA news agency said.
Labib ordered the two buildings on either side of the ruin to be evacuated after they also partially collapsed.
Building collapses are a frequent occurrence in Egypt. Many structures are unauthorised and not built according to regulations or with poor materials.
Two people were killed in May in the Cairo working class district of Sayyeda Zeinab when an old building collapsed as workers were restoring it.
In October 2006, seven people were killed when a four-storey building collapsed in the Egyptian delta city of Mansura.
A year earlier at least 16 people, including two children, were killed and 17 injured when a six-storey building collapsed in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city and its main seaport.
Three storeys had been added on illegally to the building.
Penalties against construction cowboys were boosted in 1996, shortly after the collapse of a building in the upmarket Cairo neighbourhood of Heliopolis left 64 people dead.
Just before a 1992 earthquake that killed 500 people in Cairo, the government Al-Ahram newspaper quoted officials as saying 40 percent of homes in the Egyptian capital were threatened with collapse.
One of Egypt’s worst building collapses occured in February 2002 in the northern Delta city of Damietta, where 27 people were killed.
In October of that same year, 11 people were killed in a similar incident in Cairo.
Alexandria had a bustling cosmopolitan life before the 1952 revolution that toppled the regime of King Farouk, with large Italian and Greek communities as well as many other Europeans.
One of its legendary landmarks, the Alexandria lighthouse, among the seven ancient wonders of the world, was built in the 3rd century BC on the island of Pharos off the coastline, was destroyed by two earthquakes in 1303 and 1323.