CAIRO, Egypt -- A second earthquake rocked the Egyptian capital Monday after an earlier quake killed more than 200 people and injured about 2,000 others as it flattened aging or poorly constructed buildings and spread panic across the metropolitan area of 14 million.
The second quake was reported at 11:34 local time and was reportedly not as strong as the first shock, which measured 5.9 on the Richter scale. The first struck about 3:10 p.m. (9:10 a.m. EDT) with its epicenter just 20 miles southwest of the city. It was the most powerful earthquake on record so close to the Egyptian capital, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The quake was felt across the country from Aswan in the south to Alexandria in the north, but hardest hit were Cairo and nearby cities. The quake downed at least 74 houses and buildings, killing more than 200 people and injuring about 2,000, the Interior Ministry said.
Most of the collapses occurred in Cairo, where at least 58 structures fell, including two high-rise apartment buildings in the elegant Heliopolis and Maadi sections of the city. About 120 people were killed in the capital alone, and officials predicted the toll would rise as rubble was cleared.
The toll also was high in Qalyubiya, where four schools collapsed and 40 people died. At Giza, the home of the ancient pyramids and the Sphinx, 13 people died, 53 were injured and eight buildings collapsed. There was no initial word on whether any antiquities were damaged.
The quake caused buildings in Cairo to sway dizzily for at least 15 seconds, causing people to flee from their homes, offices and workshops. Decorative stone cornices atop the German School crumbled and fell, crushing four cars on the street below, witnesses said.
'It was crazy,' said Ahmad Muntasser, a pharmacist working from a shop on
the ground floor of a 14-story apartment building. 'I wouldn't have thought such a large number of tenants and their families could make it downstairs that fast. I was surprised when I came out of my pharmacy to see such a large crowd of people already on the street.'
The government responded to the emergency quickly, with the Cabinet of Prime Minister Atef Sedki forming a working group of high-level officials and establishing the central operating room to coordinate rescue work and investigate reported collapses.
The Ministry of Health declared the situation an emergency. President Hosni Mubarak, in Beijing as part of a five nation trip to Europe and Asia, decided to cut short his visit after speaking several times by telephone with Sedki, Cairo radio reported.
Cracks were reported in the Abdeen presidential palace in downtown Cairo and in the city's police headquarters.
The Education Ministry has ordered all schools and colleges ordered and health workers were ordered to work around the clock.
The governor of Aswan, site of the massive Aswan dam, said the quake had been felt in the southern city but had not caused any damage to the dam. Residents in Alexandria, the Egyptian coastal city on the Medeterranean Sea, also reported feeling the temblor. The quake was felt as far north as Israel.
The Interior Ministry appealed for all doctors, nurses, ambulance workers and fire brigades to report for duty. The ministry also was calling the armed forces to duty to help with rescue work and ordered people to limit travel in the crowded streets to make way for ambulances and rescue teams.
The quake knocked out power to parts of the city, and residents were directed to report injuries, collapses and damage to passing police patrols on the streets.
Earthquake monitors at the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo., recorded the quake at 3:10 p.m. local time (9:10 a.m. EDT) and said it measured 5.9 on the Richter scale.
Don Finley, a spokesman for the Geological Survey, said the tremor was centered about 20 miles southwest of Cairo in an area where earthquakes are common.
Israeli earthquake monitors said the temblor was felt in Jerusalem, 300 miles northeast of the capital, where shaking rattled the furniture. A seismologist at Israel's Institute of Geophysics said the quake measured 5.5 on the Richter scale and was followed by a lighter quake centered north of the Red Sea.
Israeli President Chaim Herzog sent a telegram of condolence to Mubarak, expressing 'sympathy for the victims of the earthquake and wishing the injured a speedy recovery,' his office said. Israel also offered to assistance in the cleanup following the quake.
The last damaging earthquake to hit near Cairo registered 5.0 on the Richter scale and struck Jan. 2, 1987, near the Suez Canal northeast of Cairo, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The Geological Survey said the quake was the largest on record so close to Cairo, but added that it was far smaller than the temblor measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale that struck the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula March 31, 1969.