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Egypt power crisis: Elevator stoppage warning sparks online backlash

Electricity outages and heatwave blamed for new guidance, sparking ridicule and memes on social media
This picture taken on 25 January 2022 shows a view of the skyline of Egypt's capital Cairo (FP)

A recent warning issued by the Egyptian state power company (EEHC) advising citizens to avoid using elevators at certain times of the day due to ongoing electricity outages and a heatwave has sparked online ridicule. 

The EEHC said in a statement on 22 July that power cuts would occur in 20-minute intervals, “taking into account that the outages begin at a period of 10 minutes before the top of the hour and 10 minutes after it”. 

For safety purposes, the company urged people not to use elevators during this period and assured that any outages would “not exceed one hour from the time of the outage”.

Users flooded platforms with satirical reactions following the announcement, sharing hashtags like #Light_Outage and memes, including some pulled from old Egyptian film scenes.

In one tweet, a user said that they could now claim they "missed the 6:50am elevator" if asked why they were late by their boss.

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Some users drew up an infographic depicting hours you could take the lifts and hours to avoid them. Another commented: "If you missed the 1:50 elevator you can catch the 3:15 one!" comparing the situation to public transport.

In a similar vein, one user shared an incident, recounting, "I forgot to tell you guys, the electricity went out yesterday when I was in the elevator, but thx god the elevator dropped me off at the closest floor."

Another user jokingly apologised for their imminent departure, saying, "Sorry, guys, I have to leave; I have a train booked - I mean an elevator at 8:50." 

The EEHC statement did not detail the areas of the country where the outages would occur, nor the projected dates for the blackouts, which also caused confusion.

Several public figures weighed in on the situation, expressing their frustration. 

Mohammed Younis, an Egypt-based energy researcher, highlighted how the elderly population had been disproportionately affected by constant power outages. "Many people get trapped in the elevators, and they can't go up six or ten floors every day, multiple times," he remarked.

"Egyptians were once advised to opt for chicken feet as an economical alternative during rising food costs. Now, they're being warned against using elevators to prepare for power cuts," tweeted Nancy Okail, chief of the Centre for International Policy, adding that the situation was “an epic stream of failures to address critical crises”.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly attributed the recent power outages to a surge in consumption caused by rising temperatures in the country. 

Speaking at a cabinet meeting last week, he said that several measures would be implemented to ration electricity consumption. 

In recent days, Egypt has witnessed temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius in most regions, soaring to 45 degrees in southern parts of the country.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition

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