CAIRO, Egypt - Hopes diminished Sunday for finding survivors among hundreds of people believed trapped beneath massive boulders that destroyed an impoverished neighborhood on Cairo's outskirts, killing at least 32 people, including whole extended families.
The devastated shantytown tied to clear the large slabs that split away from the Muqattam cliffs early Saturday. Survivors among the 100,000 residents of the Dewika slum were also left to spend the night without shelter.
"The area turned into a mass grave," one bearded man shouted, while a tearful young woman in a black robe clutched a picture of a newlywed couple whose bodies remained trapped below.
State television reported that another body was pulled from the rubble Sunday, bringing the death toll to 32. A security official said 46 people were treated at hospitals, but that many other people remained buried.
The densely populated shantytown, part of a sprawling slum known as Manshiyet Nasr, is sandwiched between unstable cliffs and an unused railroad track that has made it difficult to get heavy recovery machinery into the area. More than 24 hours after the incident, rescue operations were still being carried out largely by hand and by residents.
Army personnel and Civil Defense workers managed to cut into the railway track and demolish several houses to clear the way for bulldozers.
Aboul-Ela Amin Mohammed, the head of the earthquake department at the National Research Institute for Astronomy and Geophysics, said the entire plateau is in danger of further collapse.
"It is not the first time or the last time," he told The Associated Press. "The area is full of densely packed informal housing with no central sewer system. ... When the sewage touches the fragile surface of the limestone it changes its consistency into a flour-like paste."
Similar disasters happened in 1994 and 2002.
Like much of the housing, Sayyed said his one-floor house of bricks with a wood ceiling was built illegally near the cliff edge — made possible by a bribe to the city council's engineer.
Hundreds of new government-provided apartments have been built just a 10-minute walk from the slums, but residents say only 5 percent is occupied because few can afford the necessary bribes.
Haidar Baghdadi, the parliamentary representative of the area, told AP that 388 apartments from this complex would be made available within 48 hours to those who lost their homes. Most residents interviewed Sunday, however, said they had yet to be approached.
Osama Sayyed Abdel Rahman, a shoemaker, said he left his house in the slums 20 years ago to a temporary shelter on the cliff, but instead of staying there for six months only, he remained for 20 years.
"The building is shaking whenever you shut a door and the walls are full of cracks. I live with my four sons with their mother in this cave," he said.