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A fire ripped through church in Egypt, Cairo killing 41, injuring 14

AfricaA fire ripped through church in Egypt, Cairo killing 41, injuring 14

A fire blazed through a packed #church during morning services in #Egypt, #Cairo on Sunday, killing at least 41 worshippers, injuring 14.

In that fire on Sunday morning in the packed church, 41 were killed, and 14 were injured,  officials say. The blaze, blamed on an electrical fault, hit the Abu Sifin church located in the densely populated Imbaba neighbourhood west of the Nile river, part of Giza governorate.

Witnesses described how people ran into the burning house of worship to rescue those trapped but were soon overwhelmed by the heat and the toxic smoke.

“Everyone was carrying kids out of the building,” Ahmed Reda Baioumy, who lives next to the church, told AFP.

“But the fire was getting bigger and you could only go in once or you would asphyxiate.”

The Egyptian Coptic Church and the health ministry reported 41 dead and 14 injured in the blaze before emergency services said they had brought the blaze under control.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared on his Facebook page in the morning: “I have mobilised all state services to ensure that all measures are taken.”

He later said he had “presented his condolences by phone” to Coptic Pope Tawadros II, who has been the head of the denomination in Egypt since 2012.

The interior ministry later said that “forensic evidence revealed that the blaze broke out in an air-conditioning unit on the second floor of the church building”.

Father Farid Fahmy, of another nearby church in Imbaba, told AFP the fire was caused by a short circuit.

“The power was out and they were using a generator,” he said. “When the power came back, it caused an overload.”

The church quickly filled with thick black smoke, and witnesses said several trapped congregants jumped from upper floors to escape. “Suffocation, suffocation, all of them dead,” said a distraught witness, Abu Bishoy.

Footage from the scene circulated online showed burned furniture, including wooden tables and chairs. Firefighters were seen putting out the blaze while others carried victims to ambulances. Families waited for word from relatives who were inside the church.

The country’s health minister blamed the smoke and a stampede as people attempted to flee the fire for causing the fatalities.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi spoke by phone with the Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences, the president’s office said. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, also offered his condolences to the head of the Coptic church.

“I am closely following the developments of the tragic accident,” el-Sissi wrote on Facebook. “I directed all concerned state agencies and institutions to take all necessary measures, and immediately to deal with this accident and its effects.”

Health Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghafar said in a statement that two of the injured were discharged from a hospital while 12 others were still being treated.

The Interior Ministry said it received a report on the fire at 9 a.m. local time, and that they found that the blaze broke out in an air conditioner on the building’s second floor.

The ministry, which oversees police and firefighters, blamed an electrical short-circuit for the fire, which produced huge amounts of smoke. Meanwhile, the country’s chief prosecutor, Hamada el-Sawy, ordered an investigation and a team of prosecutors was dispatched to the church.

Emergency personnel work at the site of a fire at the Abu Sefein church.  Later on Sunday, emergency services said they managed to put out the blaze and the prime minister and other senior government officials arrived to inspect the site.

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 more.

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