A nine-story apartment building collapsed early Saturday in Cairo, killing 18 people and injuring at least 24. 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 neighborhood on Saturday morning. Police cordoned off the area, keeping back the curious and people apparently looking for relatives in the building, the AP reports. "They took four people out in front of me, who looked like they were almost gone," said Mohamamed Mostafa, a resident of the neighborhood. The injured were taken to hospitals, according to a morning statement by Khalid Abdel-Al, the administrative head of Cairo governorate.
It was not immediately clear what caused the building's collapse. An engineering committee was formed to examine the structural integrity of neighboring buildings, Abdel-Al said. Building collapses are not uncommon in Egypt, where shoddy construction is widespread in shantytowns, poor city neighborhoods, 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.
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