At Least 16 Killed in Egyptian Factory Fire-Collapse
At least 16 people died, including the fire chief of Alexandria, after a clothing factory caught fire and collapsed, police said Thursday.
Many others, including a group of children, were feared dead.
Twenty-six people were injured, including three firefighters, and they were treated in two nearby hospitals, police said.
Among those killed were Alexandria's fire and disaster chief, General Mohammed Ragai, and his deputy, General Ibrahim Abdel Qader, who also headed the explosives department.
They were inspecting the inside of the building when it caved in after the blaze had been extinguished Wednesday evening.
Over the course of the day, their bodies and those of a fire department sergeant, five civil defense workers and eight other adults were pulled from a pile of broken concrete beams and twisted steel reinforcement rods.
The rubble was being cleared by dozens of rescue workers aided by earth-moving equipment as several ambulances stood by.
One person died shortly after the blaze broke out on Wednesday morning at the six-story building in the city's Sidi Gaber neighborhood, which was believed to have been started by an electrical short circuit, police said.
A civil defense worker, 55-year-old Hamid Yusef Mohammed, was rescued around dawn, and he was now recovering in the hospital with broken bones and bruises, police said.
Walid al-Beheiry, an eyewitness, told AFP the firefighters and other civil defense teams arrived immediately on the scene, in the industrial zone in Egypt's second city, but it took them seven hours to extinguish the fire.
"When the fire started all the factory workers, mainly young women, were evacuated," he said.
"A bunch of young children got into the factory after the fire was out so they could take clothes and, in seconds, the whole six storeys collapsed, trapping them under the rubble along with the civil defense chief," he said.
Police confirmed that a group of children were in the building when it collapsed and that they were still looking for their bodies.
The government-run Al-Akhbar newspaper reported that a neighboring factory was evacuated after cracks appeared in the wake of the incident and that two fire engines were crushed when the clothing factory collapsed.
Al-Akhbar said the factory building had been destabilized by a previous fire around the beginning of this year and that proper renovation work had not been carried out.
First estimates put the cost of the destruction at around 2.5 million dollars, police said.
A mass funeral for 12 of the victims was held Thursday at a mosque in Alexandria, Egypt's second city on the Mediterranean -- ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AFP)
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