Cairo paralysed by traffic jams as entire streets underwater from flooding

The government suspended schools nationwide on Tuesday

epa08243473 Egyptian municipal workers try to clear flood water from a street during rain shower in Cairo, Egypt, 24 February 2020. According to reports, showers are hitting Cairo as temperatures reach 16 degrees Celsius.  EPA/KHALED ELFIQI
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Unusually heavy rain has crippled life in the Egyptian capital, creating massive traffic jams, trapping commuters and inundating entire neighbourhoods.

The bad weather conditions began on Monday and spilled over onto Tuesday, when rain continued to fall. The cold spell has also hit areas outside Cairo.

Responding to the wet weather, the government announced the suspension on Tuesday of school and university classes nationwide in anticipation of more bad weather.

This is the second time since October that Cairo, a Nile-side metropolis of some 20 million people, has been paralysed by a heavy downpour.

In scenes reminiscent of the city’s predicament four months ago, it took some commuters up to six hours to complete a journey that normally takes 45 minutes or less.

The city’s eastern suburbs were the worst hit. Images and videos circulating online showed cars almost completely submerged by rainwater on the main thoroughfare of the Fifth Settlement, the area’s main residential and commercial neighbourhood.

Some areas in the capital also experienced power cuts and internet disruptions.

Cairo does not have a drainage system to absorb and recycle rainwater, depending instead on mobile pumps that are deployed on wet days to remove water from the streets and vehicular tunnels.

Sitting on the southern tip of the Nile Delta surrounded by desert to the east and west, the Egyptian capital gets infrequent rainfall but struggles to deal with wet conditions when it does rain. Officials say that building a rain drainage network would cost billions of dollars and that it would not be economically feasible to spend so much on a project that is used once or twice a year.