Earthquake in Egypt – The Beginnings

12th October 1992, London, 3:00 p.m. GMT

British Announcer for Capital FM radio station:

“For Capital FM, this is the three o’clock news. One of the most powerful earthquakes in Egypt’s history rocked the city of Cairo today. The medium-strength quake, 5.9 on the Richter scale, leveled thousands of homes throughout the region. The epicenter of the twenty second tremor was ten miles south of Cairo near the ancient capital of Memphis.”

21 Kingsley Road, Kilburn, London, 5:00 p.m. GMT

As soon as word of the earthquake had broken, both Sarah and I would listen to the radio reports each hour and watch the news reports on the BBC for more information. Both of us were flying into Cairo the following day, but with this natural disaster we didn’t know what to do. The BBC reporters we saw always seemed to be standing outside a building which had been reduced to rubble. I’d arranged to meet my college friend, Rich in Cairo, so if I didn’t leave for Cairo I might miss him. After a call to Egypt Air, who said that the flights were still leaving, there wasn’t much more we could do than listen to the radio for updates. The Egypt Air agent said to me there weren’t many deaths; just five or six – mainly babies.

About two hours after the quake had struck the news agencies were reporting figures like 500 dead and over 4,000 injured; people stampeding over each other in the streets due to fear, etc. After experiencing the Great California earthquake of 1989 and seeing how much work it took to restore San Francisco, I didn’t know what to expect heading to Cairo, a definite Third World country.

21 Kingsley Road, Kilburn, London, 9:00 p.m. GMT

My parents rang to find out if I was still leaving, followed by a call from Melinda telling me to get in and get out of Cairo, Sarah’s parents and even Rich’s mother!

21 Kingsley Road, Kilburn, London, 2:00 a.m. GMT

The radio broadcasts were announcing that President Mubarak was considering appealing for international aid to assist Egypt’s problems due to the disaster – that worried me. I finally made it to bed, a little concerned, and excited I was leaving, but I managed to get to sleep. Sarah and I were about to head into a situation we really didn’t know anything about – the unknown. But that’s what traveling is all about; it’s having the courage to venture into the unknown, and learn what you can while you’re there. Here I was leaving the next morning to go explore our planet, into what (at the time) was The Unknown.

Here’s the full news story as reported by the London Times.

Indian newspaper quote:

“Bombay, 2 Jan 93 – A killer earthquake struck near Cairo, Egypt on October 12, leaving at least 557 dead and over 6,600 injured. The quake damaged hundreds of ancient Egyptian monuments. Stones fell from the Giza Pyramids but the Sphinx appeared unscathed. Damage was estimated at $600 million.”

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