Egypt is drowning: The government is powerless

Despite the prior announcement of the heavy rains, the Egyptian government did not appear to be ready with any emergency plans to face the winter monsoon rains that have caused total paralysis in the country annually. Heavy rains and winds sweeping Egypt caused three deaths, the collapse of several mud houses in some villages, electricity towers in several areas, while railways were temporarily suspended, Luxor airport closed and flights diverted to Hurghada airport. Many streets, roads and highways have sunk and cut completely, many villages were isolated; its residents sent SOS calls after their homes are surrounded by water.

The Minister of Local Development, Mahmoud Shaarawi, announced that a child died after a school theater collapsed during a special ceremony and others were injured, while an electric technician died after falling from a ladder while performing maintenance work because of wind. The Ministry of Social Solidarity announced the death of a citizen in Sohag Governorate, in the south of the country, and two injured, after the roof of their house fell on them, and three fires occurred in the same governorate in Upper Egypt due to strong winds. Shaarawi pointed to the fall of 29 electric towers in the New Valley Governorate, due to the severe storms in the governorate, which caused the outage of most of its areas. Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said that the government may resort to cutting drinking water in some areas if large amounts of rain are collected to facilitate its disposal through the sewage network. The authorities of Luxor Governorate in Upper Egypt announced the temporary closure of the city’s tourist airport due to bad weather conditions, and the transfer of flights to Hurghada Airport.

The Egyptian government had appealed to citizens not to leave their homes, and closed several major roads between the governorates. The meteorological department said that the winds struck various areas in the country accompanied by heavy rains. The Egyptian capital, Cairo, and a number of other governorates, especially coastal regions, are exposed to a wave of heavy rains, lightning, thunder and dust storms every year. The government decided two days ago to stop the study in all its stages on Thursday, as well as permanently disrupting government interests and public and private companies, in anticipation of the wave of turbulent weather, which the meteorological agency said had not occurred for more than a quarter of a century, expected bad weather to prevail until Saturday evening. But the Egyptian government implicitly recognized its inability to cope with the rain, as Egyptian Minister of Local Development, Major General Mahmoud Shaarawi, said, before the rainy wave, that the country’s drainage networks cannot bear the amounts of rain expected in the country, next Thursday and Friday. He added that the state of emergency had been declared in all governorates, warning that “rain will be severe in the provinces.”

Rain rates start from 30 mm on Thursday and Friday, which is not borne by the drainage networks in Egypt. It is expected that the rain will be heavy on Marsa Matrouh and the northern coasts, up to 70 mm. The Egyptian journalist, Mohamed Nassar, said on his Facebook page that the rain is expected to exceed 70 mm on the Red Sea and over 45 mm on Cairo, while the Cairo drainage network has a maximum capacity of 15 mm. He stressed that “government alert to face the weather condition is not sufficient because the maximum effort will be made that is not commensurate with the size of the crisis and is not close to it at all … the deficit is clear. There must be a good drainage network for rainwater at the level of the country.” For her part, Egyptian Minister of Social Solidarity Neven Kabbaj said that all relief centers have been opened all over the country to help families whose homes may be damaged by the torrential rains. The minister added in a statement that coordination is underway with NGOs, headed by the Red Crescent, and the preparation of first aid, medicines, medical staff and volunteers, as well as providing sufficient numbers of tents, blankets and mattresses in addition to financial liquidity provided by the Ministry to the directorates in these governorates. And the Railways announced in a statement today, Thursday, that all flights on all railways are suspended due to bad weather and to preserve the lives of passengers.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health had announced earlier that about 13 people were injured as a result of the collision of two trains in the Rod al-Farag area. Ministry spokesman Khaled Mujahid said that the injuries were minor and there were no deaths. He added that seventeen ambulances were paid to the scene of the accident, and the injured were taken to three nearby hospitals. Mohsen El-Shamy, Director General of Crisis and Disaster Management in Luxor Governorate, announced that Luxor International Airport has been closed and all flight flights scheduled for Luxor airport have been changed, to land at Hurghada Airport, due to lack of visibility and uncertain of the safe landing of aircraft. The streets of Egypt are frequently subjected to rain drowning, the deterioration of the sewage system, and the absence of maintenance to clean the sewers and torrential refineries. Last October, 20 Egyptians were killed as a result of rain in road accidents, drowning and electrocuted. Despite the repeated annual rain, the Egyptian government seems unable to provide a radical solution to this crisis, at a time when many governments have succeeded in converting the rains into water resources for their country instead of being a problem.