Egyptian church fire leaves at least 41 dead, most of them children

Egyptian church fire leaves at least 41 dead, most of them children
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  • Fire broke out during Mass gathering
  • Church located in the city of Giza, near Cairo
  • At least 45 people injured in fire

CAIRO, Aug 14 (Reuters) – An electrical fire swept through an Egyptian Coptic Christian church during mass on Sunday, sparking a stampede and killing at least 41 people, most of them children and many from smoke inhalation.

The fire started just before 9 am at the Abu Sifin church in the city of Giza, where some 1,000 people had gathered.

The fire blocked an entrance to the church, triggering the stampede, the two sources said, 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 faithful Yasir Munir.

“Then we heard a bang and sparks and fire coming out the window,” he said, saying he and his daughter were downstairs and were able to escape.

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

In a statement, the Home Office said a forensic examination showed the fire started in the second-floor air conditioner as a result of an electrical malfunction.

Smoke inhalation was the leading cause of death, he said. The families of the deceased will receive 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($5,220), according to a cabinet statement.

Giza, the second largest city in Egypt, is located across the Nile from Cairo.

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

Maher Murad said he dropped his sister off at the church after prayers.

“As soon as I got away from the church for just 10 meters, I heard the sound of screaming and saw thick smoke,” he said.

“After the firefighters put out the fire, I recognized my sister’s body. The bodies were all charred, and many of them are children who were in a nursery at the church.”

“I don’t know if it was an electrical fire or what happened, but there were children and old people, we saved those we could save,” said Kirollos, who spoke from a hospital where he is being treated for injuries.

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

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Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan and Sayed Sheasha Writing by Nafisa Eltahir and Michael Georgy Editing by David Goodman, Raissa Kasolowsky and Nick Macfie

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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