6 September 2008

Early reports of a rockslide disaster in Egypt

Posted by Dave Petley

The newswires are providing early reports of a terrible rockslide at Deweka (also reported as Bekheit and Manshiyet Nasron) on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt. The slide appears to be a rather strange failure of a rock slope, releasing huge boulders that have buried several (and possibly many) buildings.

This Al Jazeera post contains a very useful report and also has this image of the site:

They are reporting that “Officials said at least eight rocks, some measuring 30m high, had buried more than 50 homes in the poor district of Manshiyet Nasron on Saturday. At least 18 people have been declared dead and 35 injured. Some estimates put the number of buried at 500.”

Early reports like this often over-estimate the losses in an event such as this, but if these boulders have hit residential buildings then the toll could be terrible. Al Jazeera also note that “In a survey carried out by UN Habitat, a human settlement programme, Manshiyet Nasron is described as “the largest squatter/informal area in Cairo. There are 350,000 persons living in this area on about 850 acres with a gross residential density more than 400 persons/acre”.

“The area is suffering from poor living qualities, inadequate services, lack of infrastructure, and deteriorated environmental conditions. The site is characterised by sharp contour variations ranging between 56 and 200m,” the survey said.”

The final point to note is that Al Jazeera claim that “Manshiyet Nasron residents had informed the authorities a year ago that there was a split between the rocks, a potential danger to the homes below.” This would make sense as the image above seems to show dry conditions and there are no reports of an earthquake. Thus, the landslide is most likely to have been caused either by progressive failure (i.e. a slow loss of strength through time) or slope cutting.

I will post again when I have more.