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Nearly 20 killed as 'dragon' storm brings widespread flooding to Egypt

Prime minister says Egypt is facing worst weather in decades, with schools, government offices and airport forced to close
Young men walk in Haram district of the Egyptian capital's twin city of Giza (AFP)

Almost 20 people are reported to have died after an unusually powerful storm slammed into Egypt, unleashing torrential rains and destructive winds.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said in a statement on Friday that the North African country witnessed one of its worst storms in decades, after thunderstorms shuttered schools, government offices, and an airport. 

"Egypt has not experienced such weather conditions for nearly 35 or 40 years," Madbouly said. "These weather conditions resulted in about 20 deaths across the country."

A state of emergency began on Wednesday as the powerful storm, nicknamed the "dragon" on social media, developed over the Mediterranean Sea.

On Thursday, authorities closed down Luxor International Airport, a key hub for tourists, as well as the Mediterranean port of Alexandria and the Red Sea port of Sharm el-Sheikh.

In southern Cairo, local media reported that five people were killed in the neighbourhood of Zaraib when their homes collapsed as a result of the downpour.

Several people were reported missing, with rescue workers looking for the victims.

Other reports said that two people were electrocuted and killed in the floods.

The bad weather was also blamed for a train crash in the capital on Thursday in which 13 people were injured.

Videos and pictures of flooded Cairo streets were circulated widely on social media, with criticism of the government over poor infrastructure.

Late on Thursday, Cairo's water authority announced it had suspended water service to the entire city because heavy rain had overwhelmed the vast sewage system. It said water would return when the weather improved, offering no specifics.

Mahmoud Shahin, director of the analysis department at the Egyptian meteorological authority, said: "This level of instability in weather conditions has not occurred with such force since 1994."

Heavy rains and strong winds continued to batter Egypt on Friday, but local media reported the weather was expected to clear by Saturday.

Chaos generally accompanies bad weather in Egypt, raising questions about the country's poor infrastructure and dilapidated sewage and drainage systems.

Egypt has no comprehensive rainwater drainage system and relies on a 105-year-old drainage network to siphon rainwater.