31 January 2010
A collective funeral was held last week for four young Coptic men who died while trying to save Sayed Hamed Mustafa Seif, 59, from death of suffocation in a sanitary drainage pit. Daqahliya governor Samir Salam and a number of local politicians attended the funeral in which Anba Saleeb, Bishop of Mit Ghamr, officiated.
Seif, who is a workman with the Sanitary Drainage Authority, went down a manhole into a 5m-deep pit, but began to suffocate due to the presence of a concentration of toxic gases. He cried out for help. Even though the site supervisor, Mohamed Tantawi, and a colleague stood near by, they were both too frightened to go down and help. Eid Farag Muawwad, 28, who works as a driver, went down to rescue Seif but some time passed and he never got out. Muawwad’s nephew, the 16-year-old student Nader Aziz Farag then hastened down the manhole but faced the same fate. Both David Magdy Muawwad, 21, and Tamer Murad Rizq, 28, went down to the rescue but died of suffocation. Finally Seif, who had managed to breathe through a pipe which extended outwards, was rescued by a rescue team.
The governor granted each of the victims’ families EGP5,000 and the Water Company EGP15,000 each, in return of signing declarations that they would not go to court. The governor pledged to offer jobs to the victims’ families, most of whom are poor. Muawwad and Rizq both leave toddlers behind.
The Egyptian media exploited the incident to the fullest, using it to confirm the “age-old solidarity between Copts and Muslims.” All the components of the calamity were otherwise ignored. The nonchalance of the supervisor, the absent safety precautions, the haphazard manner in which the work and the rescue were conducted, were all absolutely overlooked. The four who died, regardless of their faith, could have been spared the untimely death.