Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous Post | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next Post »

EGYPT: Deadly rockslide unleashes anger in the press

September 8, 2008 |  9:36 am

Rockslide The rockslide that killed at least 38 people in one of Cairo's largest shantytowns on Saturday has elicited a new wave of public outrage over the failure of the state not only to deal with emergencies, but also to contain poverty.

The residents of the Douaiqa slum woke up to the fall of massive boulders on about 35 of their houses Saturday. Hundreds of bodies are believed to be still missing.   

Today’s editorial of al-Wafd, an opposition newspaper, read: “How were the victims allowed to live in this dangerous place? How were they left there after the first rockslide that happened in 1994 despite all technical reports that expected further rockslides? Where was the state when these people first arrived in this area? Where has the state been for the last 14 years since the first rockslide happened?”

The incident was perceived by some observers as another example of the state's inability to close the widening gap between rich and poor. “The people know quite well that the regime dedicates all its efforts to serve the rich and when it is forced to deal with the poor, it just gives them [minor donations] instead of elaborating a policy to eliminate poverty and prevent the construction of slums in dangerous areas,” wrote Mohamed Sayed Said, editor of al-Badeel, an independent daily.

“The fundamental solution to such problems lies in putting an end to this catastrophic government and instating a regime that fights poverty rather than the poor,” Said wrote. 

The rockslide came days after the case of the real estate mogul Hisham Talaat Mostafa, who was charged in the slaying of a Lebanese singer. The press seized the opportunity to criticize real estate tycoons who were given many state incentives to build extravagant residential compounds while leaving the poor in shantytowns with little water and sewage services.

“In his current ordeal, [Mostafa] can feel for the poor of this country which gave him everything from wealth to power. He inquired thousands of feddans [land units] at very low prices to build projects that brought hundreds of millions into his pockets. Like the majority of businessmen who do not resemble the people of this blessed land, he never thought about this duty towards a society plagued by poverty,” wrote Waheed Abdel Meguid in al-Wafd.

— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo