Saturday, February 18, 2012

High winds rattle Egypt

Egypt is known as the land of the sun, and most days this holds very true. I never imagined I would be sitting down to write a blog about the unusual weather patterns in Hurghada, as we have sun pretty much 355 days of the year, but such is the case.

Stepping outside this morning I felt like I had stepped back to Colorado in the thick of winter. A sharp bite of frost was in the air, and despite the sun in the sky winds caused temperatures to plummet. Now what we consider cold I know is nothing compared to what Europe has been experiencing, but for us it is remarkable. The temperature at our house today peaked at 16 degrees, but add the wild chill and you're down to single digits. Not only is the wind cold, it's blowing gale force winds.

Now, anyone who has previously lived in Egypt can remark on one thing. The slightest bit of rain causes Egyptian drivers to freak out. Put one small puddle in the middle of the road, and previously erratic drivers become down right dangerous. (Not to mention most cars don't have functioning wind screen wipers...I once drove in a taxi in a downpour and the guy was hanging out his window as he could not see through his screen. :p). Wind is an entirely different factor. High winds in the past few days have already caused Suez ports to shut down.

Gale force winds require a different technique of driving. You cannot break concentration, and you must account for the wind force on the side and undercarriage of the car. A string of road accidents in just the past few hours indicate that drivers here missed this in driver's education.

3 British tourists and their guide were injured in a bus accident, reportedly caused by bad weather causing the bus to flip. Translation? The driver was taking the hairpin turns near St. Catherine's at an already breakneck speed, but throw in there gale force winds and you have a recipe for disaster.

Another crash occurred this morning in Hurghada, where 2 were killed and 23 injured in another bus accident. The cause for this accident was not reported, but I would not be surprised to learn it is also as a result of high speeds in gale force winds.

Image courtesy of Youm7

These stories all come along with a story from the 9th of February, where 3 German tourists (2 adults and 1 child) were killed when their "submarine" sank off the coast of Hurghada. The reason for the accident? High winds and underwater tow caused the screen on the submarine to rupture, causing the consequent sinking.

I have to ask, why are these buses and boats being allowed to drive / sail in such poor weather conditions? Why is the bus driver not instructed to slow down on the journey due to the high winds? Why was a boat allowed to set sail with a strong under tow when those conditions are meant to be strictly regulated and monitored? Is it all about making that final dollar at the end of the day now? May the people who had to pay with their lives for shortcuts rest in peace.

If out driving at the moment in Egypt, take care. Remember to slow down with these speeds, remember your car can easily be flipped with strong gales. If you don't have to travel long open stretches at the moment, don't. Rain is forecast for the next two days in the Northern Sinai and Cairo. For all drivers, please take your safety at this time into the highest consideration. 

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