Death toll hits 43 in Cairo shanty town rockslide | world | Hindustan Times
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Death toll hits 43 in Cairo shanty town rockslide

world Updated: Sep 08, 2008 18:05 IST

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The death toll from a rockfall that sent boulders crashing down on dozens of houses in a crowded Cairo shanty town has risen to 43, with more people still missing, Egyptian security sources said on Monday.

Tumbling rocks destroyed many buildings on Saturday in the Manshiyet Nasser neighbourhood in eastern Cairo, its close-packed houses and narrow alleys huddled at the foot of steep cliffs beside a highway.

Security sources said at least 15 to 20 people were still missing and believed buried. Recovery workers were expected to continue clearing away rubble to search for more bodies after they cut through a railway embankment on Sunday to bring in heavy earth-moving equipment.

Some of the rocks weigh more than 200 tonnes and it could take days to break them up and lift them out of the way.

State news agency MENA, quoting the health ministry, put the confirmed death toll at 39 by Monday morning and said 57 people had been injured.

The cliff, part of the Muqattam Hills that flank the old city of Cairo on the eastern side, fell on one of the poor working-class areas which have sprung up around Cairo as the city grew in the last few decades.

Rockfalls have been frequent in the area and the authorities had moved some people to new houses elsewhere.

Egyptian media said some people refused to move on the grounds the alternative houses were too far away. But some residents said that they did not believe the new houses existed or thought that one needed to pay a bribe to obtain one.

The disaster was the latest in a series of events which have damaged the reputation of an Egyptian government which has been in office with few changes since 2004.

The fire brigade reacted slowly last month when fire broke out in the offices of the upper house of parliament. The fire burned for more than 12 hours and gutted the historic building.

Then a prominent member of the ruling party and one of Egypt's wealthiest businessman, Hesham Talaat Mustafa, was charged last month as an accessory to the killing of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim in Dubai in July.

In July, a Cairo court acquitted a parliamentarian from the ruling party of manslaughter over the death of more than 1,000 ferry passengers who drowned in the Red Sea in 2006. The verdict has been widely criticised.