Overnight, the Azarita area of Alexandria was transformed into a military barracks after a 13-floor building toppled over to lean on the building opposite in late May.
The residents were evacuated and possibly saved from death before a real catastrophe occurred. Al-Masry Al-Youm has followed the details and consequences of the incident, and spoke to several evacuated residents about their situation and emergency housing.
The building collapsed on May 31 with no injuries or deaths reported. The building was reportedly built in 2002 and a removal order was issued for it in 2004; however, the tenants opted to live in it at their own personal risk.
Local residents in Alexandria say several buildings in the city face the same fate or worse as contractors and landlords cheat building regulations by bribing officials.
The Engineering Division of the Northern Military Region, in coordination with Alexandria local authorities and the Arab Contractors Company, are continuing to demolish the leaning building, while the affected residents have been granted emergency housing.
On a corner next to the property, Ahmed Mohammed Kamel, 60, a resident of the toppling building, said: “Thank God; the situation is as you can see, we are living in the street.”
“We [me and my wife] were invited for Iftar and when we came back at night we found this disaster; we had no time to take any of our belongings and furniture. We left it all above on the 11th floor,” Kamel said.
“The government decided to move us into other accommodation, but when we moved there we found the housing units are in very poor condition – without doors and windows, which means we spend the night vulnerable to any thief or thug with nothing to protect you and your family,” he said.
“The tombs would be 100 times better than these shelters. It is impossible for any human to live in them,” the Mrs Kamel said.
Another shelter where the residents are being housed is the Mostafa Kamel Charity. The woman said the situation there is no better, with six people housed in one room, while the children are sheltered in the mosque.
“How can a mother leave her kids to sleep so far away in such circumstances. Unfortunately, the whole situation is a tragedy,” she said.
One of the residents, who asked not to be named, told Al-Masry Al-Youm: “Most people didn’t have Suhoor and, of course, we were all worried about our belongings. Most of us are standing in the street waiting for the demolition forces to reach to our floor and take our belongings. Everyone spent the night on the sidewalk waiting.”
Ahmed Saleh al-Sayyid, a resident of a collapsed property next to the toppling building, said: “The property I was living in was four floors. We began to feel the property collapsing and we contacted the municipality after the Zohr prayer. One of the municipality engineers came just before Iftar and said, ‘Everyone get his belongings out.’ But within half an hour, the building collapsed and we couldn’t recover our belongings.”
He added: “Everyone is now in the mosque – men, women and children because no relatives can take us in, and unfortunately the government’s solutions were a shelter or school or home for elderly people – none of these are suitable for any of us.”
He continued: “The problem is that, with the two collapsed buildings in addition to the building opposite the toppled one, we are 17 families. People are worried about their belongings in the apartments but no one dares to go up and get them.”
The sound of machinery and equipment to demolish the toppling building dominates the scene in Azarita, but besides the hubbub was a woman lamenting her belongings and holding a bag of medication. “All I have saved in my life is now lost,” she cried.
Edris Mosque, one of the places where residents in the area have sheltered, was bursting with people.
Mohammed Abdul Rahman said: “As you can see, we are sitting in the mosque, stranded. We are waiting for the government to find us a solution.”
Alexandria governorate says five schools were prepared to shelter the affected families and supply with all their basic needs until they can potentially return to their homes or are provided with alternative housing.
Twenty-one residential units in Al-Amreya area have been provided for the residents of Alexandria’s leaning building, said the Social Solidarity Directorate in Alexandria.
The Directorate of Social Solidarity in Alexandria disbursed LE300 to all families affected by the evacuation of the building in Azarita area at a rate of LE100 per day for each family, over three days.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm