As political tensions rise in Egypt, a building collapse has killed at least 25 people and an opposition MP has warned that lax oversight of building and construction regulations means that hundreds more could be vulnerable to collapse in one city alone.
Yet as Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi’s government battles to contain political unrest in Cairo, any significant improvement in building code enforcement in the short term appears unlikely.
In the latest development, an eight-storey building collapsed in the port city of Alexandria, killing at least 25 people. A further 12 were injured, according to police and health officials.
With rescue teams still searching for survivors at the time of writing, these numbers may well rise.
While the immediate cause of the collapse was not clear, Alexandria governor Mohammed Abbas Atta has reportedly indicated that the building was constructed without a permit.
Enforcement of building standards throughout Egypt has never been good, but has deteriorated further over the past two years as a result of the power vacuum which followed the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
Residents of Alexandria complain that owners of farmland on the city’s outskirts took advantage of the lawlessness to sell land to developers who proceeded to construct shoddy apartment complexes, and opposition MP Abul Ezz el-Hairi has warned that hundreds of buildings throughout the city could also be vulnerable to collapse.
Last July, another building collapse in that city killed at least a dozen people.
Around the county, no fewer than 318,000 illegal buildings were built in 23 out of Egypt’s 27 states between 2009 and 2012, Housing Minister Tareq Wafeeq says.
Despite concerns about building standards, the current government remains preoccupied with containing political unrest in Cairo following dissatisfaction surrounding the country’s constitution and the process through which it was drafted, and is unlikely to devote significant resources toward improvement government performance in building safety in the short term.
Following the building’s collapse, police evacuated residents in two adjacent buildings because of concern the impact of the collapse may have caused structural damage to these buildings.