Death toll rises to 21 as storm batters Egypt for a second day

At least eight people were killed when a house collapsed after heavy rain in Cairo

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Heavy rain and gale-force winds battered much of Egypt again on Friday, raising the number of weather-related deaths over two days to at least 21 and causing large-scale power and travel disruptions.

Among the deaths on Friday were eight people, including three children, killed when a house collapsed in Cairo's May 15 suburb. Rain and winds of up to 60 kilometres per hour emptied streets in the capital and forced most businesses to shut.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli had urged Egyptians to stay at home during the storm and to keep away from light poles after several people were electrocuted.

The government had extended the weekend by declaring Thursday a national holiday because of the storm, nicknamed “The Dragon” by social media users.

Dozens of videos and photos posted online showed heavily flooded streets in Cairo, which sits astride the Nile river. The wind was so strong that advertising billboards were ripped off their frames in some areas. Most streets in the capital were strewn with debris on Friday morning. Authorities urged residents in Cairo to restrict their water use to avoid overloading the sewerage system, which was rapidly filling up with the rainwater.

The storm caused widespread power cuts across the country, with some neighbourhoods of Cairo experiencing a second day without electricity. There have also been disruptions in water supply and in internet and mobile phone services.

The chaos triggered criticism on social media of the poor infrastructure in the capital, which witnessed similar scenes after heavy rainfall in October. Officials have said in the past that building a drainage system for Cairo did not make economic sense as the city rarely receives heavy rainfall.

Railway services resumed on Friday after being suspended nationwide following a train collision in Cairo on Thursday that injured 13 people. However, authorities instructed train drivers to slow down when approaching spots where the signal system has been damaged by the storm.

The poor weather conditions also forced the closure of the port in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and halted activities off the popular Red Sea resort of Sharm El Shiekh.

The storm, reportedly the fiercest to hit Egypt in more than 25 years, is forecast to taper off on Saturday.

The storm came as Egypt stepped up measures to contain an outbreak of coronavirus, with 80 cases detected by Friday of which two were fatal – a German tourist and an Egyptian woman. Steps taken so far include a 10-day suspension of prison visits, a ban on large gatherings, the closure of theatres, the suspension of many sports and school activities and screenings at airports and hotels popular with tourists.