Rockslide kills at least 31 in Egyptian shanty town
A rockslide fell from a cliff overlooking a township outside Cairo earlier today, killing at least 18 people. The slide is blamed by residents on work carried out on the cliffs above.
At least eight boulders, some the size of a small house, fell from the towering Muqattam cliffs outside Cairo and buried about 50 homes in the village of Manshiyet Nasr, one of many densely populated slums ringing Africa's most populous city.
The official said 35 people were injured and, according to residents, there could be up to 500 people buried under the hundreds of tons of rock that fell. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The town was covered by a thick layer of dust and the scene was chaotic as men and women screamed in grief. People tried to lift the massive rocks by hand, calling out the names of relatives and family members stuck under the debris.
Police using search and rescue dogs probed the rubble, but six hours after the disaster, there was no sign of heavy machinery to assist in clearing the rock.
Angry residents yelled at police and government officials at the site, blaming them for the tragedy.
The section of hill that broke away was estimated at 60 metres (yards) wide and 15 metres long.
The official MENA news agency reported in the early afternoon that the toll stood at 20 dead and 23 hurt.
But local deputy Haidar Bardadi told Egyptian television he expected the toll to rise drastically, saying 35 homes had been crushed and between 150 and 200 people were trapped beneath the rubble.
Rescuers used their bare hands to shift debris in a desperate bid to search for victims.
The reason for the rockfall, which came at a time when many people were still at home resting during the first weekend of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, was not immediately known.
But several witnesses said work had been taking place on the hill above the quarter for several weeks, and that the authorities had been warned about the dangers.