CAIRO (AFP) - At least 22 people were killed and 23 injured on Saturday when dozens of homes in a northern Cairo shantytown were crushed by a massive rockslide, Egyptian officials and media said. Disaster struck at 0650 GMT when several huge boulders estimated by one official as each weighing "hundreds of tonnes" broke off Moqattam hill overlooking the capital's densely populated Manshiyet Nasser and struck the district of Isbat Bekhit. The section of hill that broke away was estimated at 60 metres wide and 15 metres long. The official MENA news agency reported in the early afternoon that the toll stood at 22 dead and 23 hurt but Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali said only 14 people had been killed and 21 injured. Lawmaker Haidar Bardadi told Egyptian television he expected the toll to rise drastically, saying 35 homes had been crushed and between 150 and 200 people were trapped beneath the rubble. Rescuers used their bare hands to shift debris in a desperate bid to search for victims. The reason for the rockfall, which came at a time when many people were still at home resting during the first weekend of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, was not immediately known. But several witnesses said work had been taking place on the hill above the quarter for several weeks, and that the authorities had been warned about the dangers. "There had already been some landslides, slightly hurting some people," said 42-year-old driver Abdel Latin Hossam, whose house was spared. Shoemaker Mohamed Gaber, 25, said, "They (authorities) were doing some work up on the hill. I am sure this is what caused the rockslide." Mohamed al-Sayyed, 80, too blamed the local authorities. "They had said they would evacuate the entire neighbourhood in order to set up an industrial zone. We were happy about this... but they did no such thing." Housewife Zeinab, 45, said, "This whole neighbourhood is built on rocks on the foot of the hill. We are afraid that other boulders will fall on us. We are poor people, we cannot afford to relocate." Labourer Sarghali Gharib, 24, told how he had lost eight members of his family " five sisters, a sister-in-law and her two children. "It was horrible, like an earthquake. There had already been collapses, and the government did nothing to evacuate the district," he said angrily. Police cordoned off the area and specialist dog handlers were deployed among the debris to try to locate survivors. Rescue teams struggled to make progress because of the sheer size of the boulders. They were forced to wait for five hours for cranes and special heavy lifting machinery to arrive which allowed them to move the rocks. An AFP journalist at the scene said there was panic as residents of the poor neighbourhood searched frantically for missing friends and relatives. "Two years ago the authorities warned us that it would fall on top of us, and today the drama has arrived," said Jamal Badr, 32, whose brick-built home was buried in the rockfall. Another local resident, who asked that his name not be used, told AFP that most of the properties destroyed in the landslide were inhabited and that they were mainly two-storey buildings. Cairo Governor Abdelazim Wazir arrived at the disaster scene to monitor the rescue operation amid fears that the death toll would steadily rise.