Angry residents of Bier Wadi al-Natrun blocked the Cairo-Alex desert road on Tuesday night until the early hours of Wednesday morning after a 9-year-old child was run over on the highway.
Residents have long asked for an overhead pedestrian crossing or speed bumps to be installed on the stretch of road in front of the town, which is across from the Master rest house. They previously contacted Prime Minister Essam Sharaf with their request, and say he promised the matter would be resolved.
Ammar Fouad Shaban, 9, was run over by a car as he attempted to cross the highway in the area of the town. The accident caused some residents to protest, moving onto the highway at around 11:30 pm and setting tires on fire to close down the road in both directions.
Yasser Aboutalib was in one of the first cars to be blocked as he was heading to Alexandria from the capital. “People stopped us as I was driving past Master. There were about 40 people, but more came later. They set tires on fire and were carrying rocks and sticks,” he said.
“I asked them what was wrong and they responded that the road was closed because they had a request that had not been heeded, and they would close the road until it was,” he added.
The impasse continued until 6 am on Wednesday, when, after a number of confrontations between angry commuters and the town residents, cars forced their way through and the road finally opened.
According to Aboutalib, throughout the stoppage, some cars tried to speed through the blockade but rocks were thrown at them, and one driver was dragged out of his car and beaten.
Additionally, Aboutalib and others called the police and the armed forces hotline repeatedly, but no one showed up until 5:30 am, when two army officers accompanied by 15 soldiers arrived and attempted to calm the situation by forming a line between the two groups.
Aboutalib said he personally called the military hotline 22 times, and was told repeatedly that help was on the way, but it was hours before they showed up.
Egyptian media reports about the incident included numerous errors, according to Aboutalib. Masrawy reported that police officers and the governor of Beheira had moved immediately to the scene, while Al-Badil reported that the military had opened the blockade.
“I’m very upset about the news that’s coming out about this,” said Aboutalib. “There were no police at the scene and they never came, nor did the governor or any other officials. Nor was it the army that opened the road; the officers who came didn’t know what to do.”
“There is laxness from the military and irresponsibility from the police,” he added.
According to the state-run MENA news service, Mukhtar al-Hamalawy, governor of Beheira, ordered the building of a bridge following his brief visit to the road, and added that some road lights and artificial bumps would be added until the bridge is built.