Egyptian authorities on Sunday began evacuating an apartment building in Cairo’s Zamalek neighborhood that has begun to sink on one side, causing the structure to lean.
Cairo governor Khaled Abdel-Aal checked on the building, known as the Sharbatly building, and ordered an engineering committee to inspect it and find out the extent to which it is affected by the sinkhole.
The property consists of two parts, the first of which overlooks Brazil Street and consists of 12 floors and 37 apartments. Sixteen of the apartments are inhabited and 21 are vacant.
The second part of the building overlooks Aziz Abaza Street, and has 11 floors containing 33 apartments, 28 of which are inhabited, and five of which are vacant.
Initial inspection showed damage, including cracks, a sinkhole under the garage, and a sinkhole near the entrance.
Maha al-Tarabeshi, a resident of a building adjacent to the leaning property and a vocal activist against the extension of the Cairo metro into Zamalek, blamed the metro construction project for the sinkhole, adding that digging related to the construction has been a source of great annoyance over the past several years.
During a call-in with a television program on the state-owned Channel One, Tarabeshi said the building has been subjected to intense shaking, especially at night.
She added that the cracks in the Sharbatly building led to the evacuation of the adjacent building as well, and that residents were evacuated in their pajamas and have not been allowed to reenter the building.
Tarabeshi said that the residents want their homes and will never accept compensation in the form of another property in a different area. She also noted that Zamalek residents have been against extending the metro into the neighborhood from the very beginning.
She said that Zamalek is an historic and well-populated area, and is inhabited by many great figures.
“There were signs of the cracks that affected the Sharbatly building, as well as the sinkholes. We reported this issue, and we expected a catastrophe. We live in a nightmare now. I was born in Zamalek and my grandchildren reside here. There is no alternative place for us,” Tarabeshi said.
She said that most of the families do not have the ability to live in hotels or to purchase new apartments, stressing that no compensation has been paid to residents of the neighboring building to help them obtain temporary housing, which is what happened with the residents of the Sharbatly building.
For his part, Transportation Minister Kamel al-Wazir said that people should not rush to judgement and pronounce the situation of the building serious without receiving the results of specialized engineering committees.
During a call-in with Ahmed Moussa’s TV show “Ala Massoulity” (On My Responsibility) on the privately-owned satellite channel Sada al-Balad, Wazir said that an engineering committee from Ain Shams University is currently at the site.
“The building is not leaning and has no cracks. Contrary to what was reported, there is no danger to the building,” he said.
Wazir pointed out that his Ministry paid LE30,000 compensation to each family so they can obtain alternative housing for one month.
Since 2014, dozens of Zamalek residents have protested the construction of a metro station in their neighborhood, and in 2014 filed lawsuit with the State Council to stop the metro construction.
Residents have protested that Zamalek is an island, and that its soil is weak and is not suitable for drilling work or metro traffic.
The National Authority for Tunnels has explained that this claim has been scientifically proven to be incorrect.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm