Egyptian Museum threatened by fire next door
CAIRO—Ancient artifacts at Cairo's famed Egyptian Museum are safe from looters but could still be damaged by the potential collapse of a neighboring building gutted by fire, the head of the country's antiquities chief said Saturday.
The ruling party headquarters building next door to the museum was still in flames and billowing black smoke into the sky on Saturday, a day after protesters torched it during mass anti-government demonstrations.
"What scares me is that if this building is destroyed, it will fall over the museum," antiquities boss Zahi Hawass said as he watched fire trucks try to extinguish the blaze in the NDP headquarters.
Early Saturday morning, Egyptian army commandoes secured the museum and its grounds, located near some of the most intense of the mass anti-government protests sweeping across the capital.
Before the army arrived, young Egyptians -- some armed with truncheons grabbed off the police -- created a human chain at the museum's front gate to prevent looters from making off with any of its priceless artifacts.
"They managed to stop them," Hawass said. He added that the would-be looters only managed to vandalize two mummies, ripping their heads off. They also cleared out the museum gift shop.
He said the museum's prized King Tutankhamun exhibit, which includes the boy pharaoh's gold death mask, had not been damaged and was safe.
An Associated Press Television News crew that was allowed into the museum saw two vandalized mummies and at least 10 small artifacts that had been taken out of their glass cases and damaged.
Fears of looters have prompted authorities elsewhere to take precautions to secure antiquities at other sites.
Archaeologist Kent Weeks, who is in the southern temple town of Luxor, said that rumors that attacks were planned against monuments prompted authorities to erect barriers and guard Karnak Temple while tanks were positioned around Luxor's museum.