Would-be brides among dead after collapse of aging building

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

DAMIETTA, Egypt -- Multicolored party lights were still hanging from Heba Maamoun Orabi's balcony Tuesday, strung out for what was meant to have been a wedding celebration. Instead, they were a macabre backdrop for a funeral.

Orabi was one of 22 people killed Monday in the collapse of an aging, Nile-front building that housed, among other things, a hair salon that was popular with brides. At least five women preparing for their weddings died in the four-story building.

Hundreds of people converged on mosques around the town of Damietta, 105 miles north of Cairo, to pray over coffins. All but one of the 22 dead were women; 25 other people were injured.

A mother of one victim screamed wildly and beat her fists on the door of an ambulance covered with flowers. The vehicle bore the coffin holding her daughter -- 17-year-old journalism student Basma el-Efny.

"She was an angel, she prayed all the time, she used to kiss me all the time. Who is going to kiss me now?" said the woman, who only identified herself as Manal.

Manal said her daughter had been at the salon with bride-to-be Shireen Said el-Sarta and el-Sarta's sister, Rasha, when the building collapsed. All three died.

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