Cairo blast survivor: 'I miraculously escaped death'

Ibrahim Al Beheiri abandoned his car seconds before flames from explosion engulfed the vehicle. Hamza Hendawi reports from Cairo

epa07757075 People extinguish a fire from a blast inside the National Cancer Institute, Cairo, Egypt, 04 August 2019 ccording to reports, at least one person died and after an oxygen tube exploded at the National Cancer Institute in Cairo.  EPA/MOHAMED HOSSAM

University lecturer Ibrahim Al Beheiri was lucky to escape Sunday night’s deadly blast in central Cairo with just a hand injury.

Had he not quickly abandoned his car before it was engulfed in flames, he would have died along with the 20 people killed in the explosion.

"God has been kind to me. I miraculously escaped death," Mr Al Beheiri, 48, a father of two, told The National.

“I left the car quickly and walked away because I was scared of a secondary blast. I looked back and my car was on fire.”

Egypt said that the blast was caused by the collision of an explosives-filled car with oncoming traffic in a one-way street outside a cancer hospital on the Nile River.

I don't wish it on anyone to have to go through what I went through. But God gave me the quick mind to leave the car before it caught fire

The authorities said the car was stolen and the explosives were meant for use in a terrorist attack elsewhere.

They said Hasm, a breakaway faction of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was behind the incident.

Almost 50 people were wounded in the blast, which was the deadliest terrorist incident in Cairo since a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Christian chapel in December 2016, killing 30 people.

That attack was claimed by the local affiliate of ISIS, which is leading a long insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.

Mr Al Beheiri said he caught a glimpse of the explosives-laden car seconds before it collided with a minibus packed with passengers, which was just a couple of metres in front of his own car.

"It hit the minibus on the left side and the blast followed seconds later," he said. "The minibus took the brunt of the blast and I was injured by flying glass.

"I don't wish it on anyone to have to go through what I went through. But God gave me the quick mind to leave the car before it caught fire."

Mr Al Beheiri, who teaches international law, was on his way to meet a friend in Al Zahraa Al Maadi, a middle-class residential area about 5 kilometres south of the blast site, when the explosion occurred at 11.30pm.

Mr Al Beheiri lives mostly in Kafr Al Sheikh in the Nile Delta, but keeps a flat in Cairo, where he lectures at Helwan University.

Shortly before the attack, he was offering his condolences on the death of a colleague's brother, at a wake in a mosque in Cairo's Tahrir Square, a five-minute drive north of the hospital.

“My little daughter, Farah, who is 5, wanted to come with me to Cairo on Sunday but I did not want her to.

“No reason. I just didn’t. Had she come, neither of us would have been able to get out of the car in time to escape a certain death.”

With his right hand bleeding profusely, Mr Al Beheiri walked to the nearby Qasr Al Eini hospital, where he received first aid and was later operated on to remove glass shrapnel.

"We must fight this blind terrorism until we take our last breath," he said. "I am saying this because I now know what it's like to be in the middle of a fire, not watching from the outside."