Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 11:50 UK

Egypt rockfall death toll rises

Scene of rockfall in Cairo
Local people have complained that authorities were slow to act

The death toll from a rockslide at a shanty town in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, has risen to 61, the state news agency says.

Rescue work is continuing at the sight, in the eastern Duwayqa district, four days after massive boulders fell onto houses at the foot of a cliff.

No-one has been pulled alive from the rubble since Saturday and hopes of finding survivors are fading.

It is unclear what caused the rockslide but residents have blamed quarry work.

The authorities have been criticised for a delay in sending heavy machinery and some reports say hundreds of people may still be buried.

The Mena news agency quoted eyewitnesses as saying angry local residents threw stones at dignitaries who visited the scene on Tuesday.

At least eight boulders - some estimated to weigh about 70 tonnes - fell from the towering Muqattam cliffs on to the houses below.

More than 70 people were injured in the incident.


Teams of rescuers - some with heavy lifting machinery but some using only their bare hands - have been searching for survivors.

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Local people say they believe there are many more victims trapped or missing than suggested by the official government estimates.

A six-storey building below the cliffs had been completely obliterated, residents said.

"It was horror," said Hassan Ibrahim Hassan, 80, whose house escaped the destruction.

"The power went out, we heard a loud bang like an earthquake and I thought this house had collapsed. I went out, I saw the whole mountain had collapsed."

A BBC correspondent says the area is known to have had landslides previously.

One resident who spoke to the BBC said the local authority had been breaking rocks on the cliffs, which she suspected caused the landslide.

"The people from the authorities for the last nine months were keeping us in our homes and breaking stones every day.

"We saw a boulder coming down on us, on our houses, on the children, our belongings, and our neighbours and they pulled them out dead. Just as you see, no-one has done anything to help since yesterday."

Another angry resident said that those responsible for causing the landslide should be held to account.

"These people should have been moved from their houses, and we blame the government for this, and we will not relinquish our rights, and the blood of Egyptians is not cheap," said the resident.

Cairo rockslide death toll climbs
08 Sep 08 |  Middle East
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