Storm batters northern Egypt, killing at least three people

CAIRO — A storm triggered by a low pressure system rolled into northern Egypt on Thursday, with torrential rains and sweeping thunderstorms collapsing walls and houses in poor areas, leaving at least three people dead and sparking evacuations in several districts, officials said.

The weather bulletin issued by the Egyptian Meteorological Department said the storm was one of the strongest since January 2018, when more than 70 people were killed in similar weather conditions.

At least two people were electrocuted to death by electricity lines during Thursday’s storms, which were centered mostly in the northern governorates of Kafr el-Sheikh and Sweihan. The storm also sent a swarm of scorpions and lightning bolts into homes, said witnesses and doctors in the Kafr el-Sheikh area.

“It was very strong and we had a lot of lightening,” said Samuel Kamel, who was studying in an unfinished, temporary building next to a wave of homes that had been toppled by the storms. “I was on my way to study when I got a call that the building we were studying in was blown down by the storm,” he said.

The first electrical accident occurred on a residential street, with four people hospitalized, said Hala Mahjoub, an official with a health department in Kafr el-Sheikh, who was monitoring the situation.

Several heavy thunder and lightning bolts were reported, said Mahjoub, but it was the lightning that was feared the most, because scorpions were lurking around homes and cars. “Scorpions carrying stings can be very dangerous,” she said.

She said several residents had headed to hospitals, where they were treated and later released.

More than 50 homes collapsed during the storms, said Ghassan Khattab, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. “We are worried because many people who had been evacuated from one area of storm now found themselves in another, where they were unable to leave. It’s a situation we are very concerned about,” he said.

Khattab said the ministry was distributing blankets and water to evacuees.

Earlier this week, storm clouds swept over parts of northern Egypt, causing minor flooding and torrential rains, with crescents of farmland inundated.

Egypt has seen an increase in thunderstorms in recent years, although they have seen less of a buildup over the past two decades as the country built massive reservoirs to store excess rainwater in its vast Western Desert.

Emergency crews were already on the scene on Thursday after the three deaths, to help clear the bodies and return affected areas to normalcy, said Emergency Ministry spokesman Hossam Abu Hamdy. “We are continuing our efforts to clear the streets and our priority is the clean up of cars that were crushed by collapsing walls and houses,” he said.

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