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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 Rescued In Cairo Building Ruble

CAIRO -- Two women were found alive Tuesday after 36 hours entombed beneath the rubble of a Cairo apartment block which caved in on its residents, killing at least 18 people with 90 still missing.


The 11-story building collapsed Sunday in Cairo's northern Heliopolis suburb. Rescuers have dug out 24 survivors from the mountain of concrete and twisted steel.


Egyptian rescue workers, joined by seven volunteers from the German Red Cross, tirelessly scoured the rubble for signs of life and at dawn pulled out Egyptian Noha Fawzi and her American friend Samantha Miksche, both suffering from abrasions.


"She [Samantha] was visiting her mom's relatives and they wanted a place to rent. Unfortunately they were looking at the flat when it [the building] fell down," Noha Wagih said by telephone by the woman's bedside.


"Samantha and Noha were looking at the bedroom. Samantha's mother, aunt and a cousin were outside when it happened. They're still there and we're praying they're alive," she added.


At the accident scene, an elderly Egyptian Red Crescent volunteer passed out endless cups of water to policemen and anguished relatives.


"Are they bringing someone out? Is that why they've slowed down?" a distraught woman whose relatives lived in the building asked the crowd while her daughter sobbed quietly.


"Maybe it's Iman. See, that's where their flat was, right where they are working. That's the carpet they have on the children's room," she said, clutching the arm of her daughter.


Earth movers gradually cleared away areas of the rubble which had been searched while rescuers moved on to pick through pieces of brick, carpets and furniture with their hands.


Authorities said the building had been illegally heightened and are questioning the owner but the building's porter said he thought renovation work in one of its 40 apartments might have destabilized the structure.


German rescuer Claus Ropper said the block appeared to have listed to the left but he thought there might still be survivors in the center of the rubble heap.


"We think there may be survivors under the right side and in the middle of the building but the sniffer dogs keep coming back and forth over the left side and we think there are plenty of corpses down there," Ropper said.


Soaring Cairo real estate prices have often pushed landlords to add extra floors to their properties illegally. Several buildings have collapsed beneath the extra weight and recent earthquakes have also taken their toll on poorly constructed buildings in the crowded capital.