8 Sep 2008

Path cleared to Cairo rock fall site

8:54 am on 8 September 2008

Earth-moving equipment has been brought to the site of a rock fall which killed at least 34 people in a Cairo shantytown on Saturday.

Workers had to cut through a railway embankment to do so.

But no heavy equipment such as bulldozers, loaders or cranes had reached the site by Sunday afternoon, about 30 hours after giant rocks peeled off a cliff and fell on the houses and people below at about 9am local time (0700 GMT) on Saturday.

Some of the rocks weigh more than 200 tonnes and it could take days to break them and lift them out of the way.

Rockfalls have been frequent in the area.

The disaster is the latest in a series of events which have damaged the reputation of the government.

The fire brigade reacted slowly last month when a blaze broke out in the offices of the upper house of parliament. It burned for more than 12 hours and gutted the building.

A prominent member of the ruling party and one of Egypt's wealthiest businessman, Hesham Talaat Mustafa, was charged last month as an accessory to the killing of a Lebanese singer in Dubai in July.

In July, a Cairo court acquitted an MP from the ruling party of manslaughter over the death of more than 1,000 ferry passengers who drowned in the Red Sea in 2006. The verdict has been widely criticised.