1. Archive

Rumors of second quake panic Cairo

Published Oct. 12, 2005

The death toll in Egypt's worst earthquake rose above 400 Tuesday, and thousands of frightened people camped out along the road to Cairo airport after rumors swept the city that another tremor was expected.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva said at least 1,000 people were dead or missing and 10,000 had been injured. But Prime Minister Atef Sedki told Reuters this information was "completely inaccurate."

The secretary-general of the Egyptian Red Crescent, Mamdouh Gabr, said he believed the report was a mistake. The Crescent had sent a fax to Geneva referring to 1,000 dead, missing and homeless, but the word "homeless" had been dropped in an English translation.

Sources at the Interior Ministry said they had definite word of 402 dead across the country, most of them in greater Cairo, where 12-million people live in one of the world's most crowded urban areas.

Sedki was speaking at Cairo airport just before President Hosni Mubarak arrived home after cutting short a visit to China. Officials said he immediately convened a meeting with ministers and local government leaders.

Telephones at Reuters rang throughout the afternoon as people across Cairo called to check rumors that experts had warned another quake was expected.

In the poor district of Seiyidna Zeinab, people nervous about cracks in the walls of their houses tied furniture and carpets onto pickup trucks and vans.

Cars were parked along a 1-mile stretch of the highway to Cairo airport, which lies in the desert just outside the city, and passengers said they were worried by the rumors of another tremor.

A French team arrived with sensors and sniffer dogs to hunt for bodies buried under rubble, and Kuwait sent a planeload of food, medicine, tents and blankets for the victims of Monday's disaster.

Airport sources said Algerian and German rescue teams and relief supplies from Saudi Arabia and France were on their way.

Moslem fundamentalists, the main political opposition in Egypt, competed with the government to bring relief to the bereaved and homeless.

The government promised $150 to the families of the dead and $60 to the injured.

The Doctors' Union, dominated by fundamentalists, said it was offering $60 to the families of the dead, $30 to families of the injured and $30 to families whose houses had been damaged.