Death toll from Egypt building collapse climbs to 18

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CAIRO — The death toll from the collapse of a nine-story apartment building in Cairo has climbed to 18, Egyptian state media reported.

The building collapsed early Saturday. State newspaper Al-Ahram said that search and rescue workers recovered the bodies over the course of the day.

Excavators could be seen digging through the debris in the el-Salam neighbourhood . Police cordoned off the area, keeping back the curious and people apparently looking for relatives in the building.

“They took four people out in front of me, who looked like they were almost gone,” said Mohamamed Mostafa, a resident of the neighbourhood .

At least 24 others were injured and taken to hospitals, according to a statement by Khalid Abdel-Al, the administrative head of Cairo governorate. The death toll provided by his office stayed at nine as of Saturday evening.

It was not immediately clear what caused the building's collapse. An engineering committee was formed to examine the structural integrity of neighbouring buildings, Abdel-Al said.

Building collapses are not uncommon in Egypt, where shoddy construction is widespread in shantytowns, poor city neighbourhoods and rural areas.

With real estate at a premium in big cities like Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, developers seeking bigger profits frequently violate building permits. Extra floors often are added without proper permits.

The government has recently launched a crackdown on illegal building across the country, jailing violators and in many cases destroying the buildings.

Mohammed Salah, The Associated Press