An Egyptian church fire kills at least 41 people, most of them children

  • A fire broke out during the gathering for mass
  • The church is located in Giza, near Cairo
  • At least 45 people were injured in the fire

CAIRO (Reuters) – An electrical fire broke out in an Egyptian Coptic Christian church during Sunday mass, sparking a stampede and killing at least 41 people, most of them children, with many suffering from smoke inhalation.

The fire started just before 9 a.m. in the Abu Sefein Church in Giza, where up to 1,000 people had gathered.

The two sources said that the fire closed the entrance to the church, which led to the stampede, adding that most of the dead were children.

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“People were gathering on the third and fourth floors and we saw smoke rising from the second floor. People rushed down the stairs and started falling on top of each other,” said Yasser Munir Al-Masli.

“Then we heard a spark and fire coming from the window,” he said, adding that he and his daughter were on the ground floor and could escape.

Electrical fires are not rare in Egypt. In late 2020, a fire at a hospital treating COVID-19 patients killed at least seven people.

The Ministry of Interior said in a statement that a medical examination showed that the fire started in the air conditioners on the second floor as a result of an electrical malfunction.

She added that smoke inhalation was the main cause of death. A cabinet statement said the families of the deceased would receive 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($5,220).

Giza, the second largest city in Egypt, lies directly on the banks of the Nile from Cairo.

“I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the innocent victims who died with their Lord in one of his places of worship,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a tweet.

Maher Murad said he left his sister in church after prayers.

“As soon as I moved 10 meters away from the church, I heard screaming and saw thick smoke,” he said.

“After the firefighters put out the fire, I recognized my sister’s body. All bodies were charred, many of them children who were in the church nursery room.”

“I don’t know if the fire was electrical or what happened, but there were children and old people, we saved who we can save,” said Cyril, who was speaking from a hospital where he was being treated for injuries.

A funeral was held for those killed in a fire in a cemetery in Giza late on Sunday night.

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(cover) Ahmed Mohamed Hassan and Sayed Shisha.

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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