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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Record Earthquake Shakes Egypt, Hundreds Killed

CAIRO - The most powerful earthquake in Egypt's history hit Cairo on Monday, killing at least 241 people and injuring 2, 000 in the heavily populated capital and surrounding areas.


Among the dead and injured were children crushed in human stampedes when panic-stricken people tried to escape from swaying, shaking buildings into the streets.


Security sources, who gave the casualty figures, said they had reports of 80 collapsed or damaged buildings across the city of 12 million, which sprawls from the ancient pyramids of Giza on the west bank of the Nile to medieval slums and new housing developments on the east.


Reuters correspondent Ashraf Fouad reported that distraught, shrieking relatives besieged a hospital in the northern slum district of Shubra el-Khaimah, where doctors said they had registered 34 deaths. Riot police cordoned off the hospital.


The doctors said many people had been killed in the stampedes when the 1-minute quake struck at 3: 10 P. M.


Information Minister Safwat Sherif said a number of the dead had been children crushed in stampedes at schools.


He said President Hosni Mubarak


had cut short a visit to China to return to Cairo when he heard news of the earthquake.


Clouds of dust billowed over the city after the quake, which was felt 425 kilometers away in Jerusalem.


Dazed residents stood in alleyways in front of their homes, surrounded by rubble and too frightened to go back in.


State television said in its first bulletin, more than an hour after the quake: "Egypt experienced the most powerful earthquake in its history which caused a cut in power and telephone lines".


Ibrahim el-Himali, an earthquake expert at the government's Helwan observatory, said the shock measured between 5. 5 and 6. 0 on the Richter scale, strong enough to damage a city extensively.


The U. S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, said the quake's center had been 30 kilometers south-west of Cairo.


The tower block in which Reuters has offices on the 21st floor shuddered and swayed when the quake struck.


The biggest buildings in the city center, such as the state radio and television center overlooking the Nile and the 30-story Ramsis Hilton hotel, survived unscathed.


But there are many poor districts where families live packed in badly built tenement blocks and building collapses are regularly reported.


In a four-story building split by huge cracks, women on balconies threw bags of possessions down to the street.


State television said the earthquake struck during a cabinet meeting and Prime Minister Atef Sedki immediately formed an action group of the ministers of defense, interior, health, local government and supply to deal with the emergency.


Television showed red-helmeted rescuers digging with their hands through the rubble of one collapsed building, their scrabbling in the darkening street illuminated by arc lights.