At least 41 worshipers, including at least 10 children, were killed in a fire at a crowded Coptic Orthodox church near the Egyptian capital.
Facing black smoke from the top floor of the Martyr Abune Sefen Church, several people who were trapped tried to escape from the powerful flames, witnesses said.
“Suffocation, suffocation, everyone died,” said a distraught witness who gave his partial name as Abune Bishoi.
“There are children, we didn’t know how to reach them,” Abune Bishoy said.
45 people including four policemen were injured in the accident.
Inside the church and in nearby hospitals, weeping families waited outside to talk about their loved ones.
The fire broke out at a church in the working-class neighborhood of Imbaba in Giza, Greater Cairo, where about 5,000 people had gathered. Giza, Egypt’s second largest city, is across the Nile from Cairo.
The Home Ministry said in a statement that forensic investigations have revealed that the fire started in the air conditioner on the second floor due to an electrical fault.
He said smoke inhalation was the main cause of death. The families of the dead will receive 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($5,220), according to a cabinet statement.
“All steps taken.”
Coptic Orthodox Church spokesman Musa Ibrahim said among those killed were three five-year-old children, their mother, grandmother and an aunt. He also said that the funeral of the dead will be held in two churches in the nearby Warak neighborhood.
Imad Hana, a witness, said that the church included two places used for investment and one of the church workers managed to get some of the children out.
“We went upstairs and found people dead. And we started to see from outside that the smoke was rising and people wanted to jump from the top floor, she said.
“We found the children,” he said, “some dead, some alive.”
Ambulances rushed the injured to nearby hospitals and 15 fire engines were dispatched to the scene to douse the flames.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had a telephone conversation with Coptic Christian Archbishop Tawadros II, the office of the president announced.
“My deepest condolences to the families of the innocent victims who died with their Lord in a house of worship,” El-Sisi tweeted.
“I have mobilized all government services to ensure that all measures are taken,” he said on his Facebook page.
Mahder Murad said he took his sister to church after prayers.
“I left the church only 10 meters away [3 feet]I heard a scream and saw thick smoke.
“After the firefighters put out the fire, I discovered my sister’s body. The bodies were all burned, and many of them were children who had been in a nursery in the church.
The country’s chief prosecutor, Hamada El-Saoui, ordered an investigation and a team of prosecutors was sent to the church.
Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, making up at least 10 million of Egypt’s 103 million people.
Egypt has experienced several deadly fires in recent years.
At least 20 people in March 2021 He died in a fire In a textile factory in the eastern suburbs of Cairo.
In the year In 2020, two hospital fires killed 14 COVID-19 patients.