Hot off the Press: Floods dominate news

"The President is with you" read Rose al-Youssef’s front-page headline today in its coverage of the aftermath of the flash floods and torrential rains that have hit Sinai and Upper Egypt, swamping several villages and port cities, causing blackouts, and killing at least seven people.

The newspaper said that President Hosni Mubarak has gone out of his way–canceling ceremonies for "science day" and adjusting his schedule–to personally follow the consequences of the natural disaster and to monitor rescue and compensation efforts. According to the paper, which is widely considered a government mouthpiece, Mubarak made a surprise visit to Sharm el-Sheikh, one that wasn’t covered by the press, while government members "rushed" to Aswan.

According to Rose el-Youssef, the president gave instructions that those who were displaced be given lodging "immediately… until their homes are rebuilt." The army was ordered to dispatch rescue planes and boats for those who are still stranded in some villages. The paper said that according to official counts, 458 houses collapsed in Aswan alone, while government offices and local hospitals in the Upper Egyptian city were also flooded.

Al-Shorouq ran the same story on its front page, and reported that Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif had refused to officially recognize the flooded areas as "disaster areas," announcing on the sidelines of a diplomatic press conference that "things are not that bad."

According to the independent newspaper, Nazif promised compensations to the victims of the floods, including families of those who died, those who were injured and lost their homes, in addition to sending food to areas that were affected. Those who lost their homes will be moved to "modern housing," said Nazif, who added that the ruined homes were built out of "bricks and mud, and lie on flood plains, and so the new homes will have to be located elsewhere, away from this area." But beyond these general promises, the prime minister did not disclose any further details. He said he is scheduled to visit el-Arish on Wednesday.

Al-Shorouq said that authorities have not issued an official death toll for the flooding, but anecdotal evidence suggests at least 20 dead and scores more missing. It also said that the destruction of some of the roads leading into Sinai have already caused a delay in government aid and rescue, as injured people in many areas find it impossible to reach hospitals.

In Aswan, residents told Al-Shorouq that hospitals have refused to check them in or give them medical care until they showed social security cards, which they had lost, along with their homes, in the floods. The newspaper quoted an anonymous "high-profile" source as describing the situation as both "dangerous and disastrous."

In other news, Al-Shorouq ran an interview with prominent (and often controversial) scholar Qatar-based scholar Youssef el-Qaradawi. El-Qaradawi praised the first statements of Mohamed Badee, the new supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, as "balanced and reasonable." El-Qaradawi told Al-Shorouq that the "crisis" that the Brotherhood was facing has now ended with the selection of a new guide, adding that it is inevitable that Badee will seek the help and advice of unelected leaders like Mohamed Habib and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who both, unlike Badee, advocate a reformist trend in the Brotherhood. El-Qaradawi said that he may visit the Brotherhood office as part of his visit to Egypt.

Meanwhile, Youm7 reported that an assembly of Al-Azhar sheikhs, along with Bishop Basanti, a close aide and adviser to Pope Shenouda, will be holding a public discourse Wednesday to discuss ways in which Muslims and Christians in Egypt "could live peacefully side by side and fight ignorance." The move is the latest of conciliatory efforts that both the government and the National Democratic Party are pushing following recent sectarian strife in Upper Egypt, which killed six Copts and incited massive clashes between Muslims and Christians in Farshout and Naga Hammadi.

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