Thunderstorms packing heavy rains and lightning caused widespread flooding across Egypt on Thursday, killing at least five people and injuring five others, officials said as authorities shuttered schools, government offices and an airport.
A child died and five people were injured when floods demolished their houses in a rural area in the southern province of Qena, where lightning ignited several fires. Also in Qena, a motorist was killed when winds blew his car into a canal.
Photos and video footage circulated on social media showed flooded roads, damaged bus shelters and broken windows around the country.
In western New Valley province, a technician was electrocuted while trying to fix a lighting column that went off due to the rain, local officials said.
In southern Sohag province, a 35-year-old bystander died under the rubble of a wall that was knocked down by wind.
A 60-year-old man was electrocuted as he walked down the street in his village in the Delta province of Menoufeya.
Authorities shut down Luxor International Airport, a key hub for tourists, and three seaports – the Mediterranean port of Alexandria and the Red Sea ports of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.
Nile River cruises between the southern cities of Luxor and Aswan, which harbour most of ancient Egypt’s monuments, were suspended and several key highways were closed.
The country’s railway authorities suspended train service nationwide, citing the bad weather. The announcement came shortly after two Cairo-bound trains collided near their final destination, injuring 13 people, according to health officials. Railroad officials later said in a statement the collision was due to a signal system error caused by the bad weather.
Officials earlier in the week announced that schools would be closed and suspended work in businesses and government offices after forecasters warned of heavy rains and flooding across much of the country through Saturday.
The prime minister’s office on Wednesday advised Egyptians to stay home, prompting hundreds of people to line up outside grocery stores to stock up on supplies for the weekend.
Chaos always accompanies bad weather in Egypt, raising questions about the country’s poor infrastructure and dilapidated sewage and drainage systems.
Late Thursday, Cairo’s Water Authority announced it had suspended water service to the entire megacity because heavy rain had overwhelmed the vast sewage system. Water would return when the weather improved, it said, without offering an exact time.
In October, rain that slammed Cairo and other parts of the country flooded key roads and left at least eight people dead, including four children.
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