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Plagues Strike Egypt: Sudden Floods, Then Scorpions Called Deathstalkers

Mourad Abazid, 56, a government employee from the low-lying village of Kobaniya, on the Nile’s west bank, said the floods had inundated his house, forcing him and his family to shelter at a mosque. He was now sleeping in the street beside the rubble of their home, while his wife and three children stayed with neighbors.

“Thank God, no one died; we rescued people, but our houses are gone,” he said. “We don’t know what we’re going to do now.”

Most houses in the village were at least partly damaged, he said, with some in danger of collapsing. There had been no electricity or water since Friday night.

“It was just an hour of rain, but it wrecked everything,” Mr. Mohamed said.

Aswan and the broader region of Upper Egypt have a long history of suffering official neglect. Amid widespread poverty, some Aswanis have turned to freelancing as scorpion hunters, a profitable if risky pursuit.

Scorpions can be milked for their venom, used for scientific research and some medical treatments. A single gram of scorpion venom, requiring the milking of as many as 3,000 scorpions, can be exported for $8,000, said Dr. Abdel-Rahman, who studies medical and scientific uses for the venom.

Toxins isolated from deathstalker venom are currently used in laboratory research and in cancer treatment, where they can be used to paint tumor cells in the brain during surgery, highlighting them for removal.

“I’m very, very sad when people kill scorpions,” Dr. Abdel-Rahman said, “because the venom of scorpions is very rich and useful.”

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