In Egypt, 7 dead after chaotic day of heavy rains, flooding

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The streets of Faisal area after heavy rains today in the capital Cairo, Egypt on October 22, 2019. (AFP)
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A man watches rescue vehicles withdrawing water by suction from the al-Oroba tunnel in the Heliopolis district after rain led to traffic jam in the Egyptian capital Cairo on October 22, 2019. (AFP)
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The streets of Faisal area after heavy rains today in the capital Cairo, Egypt on October 22, 2019. (AFP)
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The streets of Faisal area after heavy rains today in the capital Cairo, Egypt on October 22, 2019. (AFP)
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Reflection of the streets of Faisal area after heavy rains today in the capital Cairo, Egypt on October 22, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 23 October 2019

In Egypt, 7 dead after chaotic day of heavy rains, flooding

  • People captured images of Tuesday’s downpours and flooding on their mobile phones, posting footage on social media
  • Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said Wednesday’s school closures were limited to the greater Cairo area, including Giza and Qalioubia, as more rainfall was expected

CAIRO: At least seven people, including three children, were killed in Egypt’s Nile Delta and Sinai regions, authorities said Wednesday after heavy rains pummeled Cairo and other parts of the country the previous day, causing massive traffic jams and flooding many key roads.
People captured images of Tuesday’s downpours and flooding on their mobile phones, posting footage on social media, including scenes of cars submerged by flood waters.
In one dramatic video, a man on a bulldozer pulls the lifeless body of a little girl out of the water in a flooded area in the northern province of Sharqia as shouts and screams are heard in the background. Another video shows a policeman, steps away from the presidential palace in Cairo’s district of Heliopolis, wading into a flooded street to unclog a sewage drain.
Authorities closed schools and universities in the greater Cairo area Wednesday and companies saw only skeletal staff show up at work after Tuesday’s heavy rains.
The mayhem raised questions about Cairo’s ability to deal with heavy rainfall as the city’s infrastructure and sewage and drainage systems have suffered from years of poor maintenance.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said Wednesday’s school closures were limited to the greater Cairo area, including Giza and Qalioubia, as more rainfall was expected in the next couple of days, according to the country’s weather service.
Five deaths occurred in the Nile Delta provinces of Sharqia, Gharbia and Kafr el-Sheikh, according to the Interior Ministry. Three of the victims, including two children, were fatally electrocuted. The other two victims died falling from the rooftops of their flooded homes.
Local authorities in northern Sinai also reported two deaths. Moataz Taher, head of the el-Hassana municipality, said in a statement that a 47-year-old farmer and his 13-year-old daughter died early Wednesday in the flooding.
Cairo’s eastern suburb of Nasr City was hit the hardest, as well as Heliopolis, located near Cairo’s international airport. The government said the two suburbs had received at least 650,000 cubic meters of precipitation in just 90 minutes on Tuesday, overwhelming the city’s sewage and drain systems.
Trucks fanned out across Cairo to drain water from flooded areas. A key highway connecting Cairo to other provinces was closed, the state-run Al-Ahram daily reported.
EgyptAir said it had delayed some fights on Tuesday because passengers were stuck on the roads and unable to get to the airport. A part of the old Cairo airport terminal which has been under renovation was also flooded, with footage on social media showing rainwater pouring into the hallway.
The Civil Aviation Ministry said that terminal was only being used by a private carrier for one or two flights a day and shared photos of it after it was cleaned up.


Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.