At least 41 people killed in Egypt church fire, officials say | Egypt

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A fire sparked by a power outage at a crowded church in a working-class district of Greater Cairo has left at least 41 people dead and 45 injured, Egyptian officials said.

Around 5,000 people had gathered at the Abu Sifin Coptic Church in Imbaba, Giza, for Sunday morning services when a fire broke out just before 9 a.m. local time (7 a.m.) .

Flames and smoke blocked an entrance to the church, causing the crowd to crush, security sources told Reuters, adding that most of those killed were children. Some people jumped from upper floors in an attempt to escape, witnesses said.

“People were gathering on the third and fourth floors, and we saw smoke coming out of the second floor,” said Yasir Munir, a worshiper on the ground floor who managed to flee with his daughter.

“People rushed down the stairs and started falling on top of each other. Then we heard a bang and saw sparks and fire coming out of the window.

The church would have included a nursery for the children. Witnesses described how people rushed into the burning building to rescue those trapped, but were quickly overwhelmed by the heat and smoke.

Ahmed Reda Baioumy, who lives next to the church, told Agence France-Presse: “Everyone was carrying children out of the building, but the fire was getting worse and you could only enter once. or you would suffocate.”

Fifteen fire engines had managed to put out the blaze in the narrow street on Sunday afternoon, while footage from the scene released online showed damage to the church, including burnt wooden furniture. Worried families waited outside for news of missing loved ones.

Egypt’s authoritarian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said in a tweet: “I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims who died to be with their lord in one of his places of worship.”

Sisi also spoke by phone with the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Tawadros II, to offer his condolences, the president’s office said. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Cairo’s influential al-Azhar mosque, also offered his condolences.

The Prime Minister and other senior government officials arrived to inspect the site later on Sunday as Attorney General Hamada el-Sawy ordered an investigation.

The Interior Ministry, which oversees Egypt’s police and fire service, said an initial report said the fire started on the second floor in an air conditioner, which then shorted out, producing huge amounts of smoke.

Egypt’s Christians make up around 10% of the country’s more than 103 million people and have long complained of discrimination from the country’s Muslim majority.

Sunday’s blaze was one of the worst fire tragedies in recent years in Egypt, where safety standards and fire regulations are poorly enforced.

In March last year, a fire at a garment factory near Cairo killed at least 20 people and injured 24 others.

Agencies contributed to this report

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