41 people including 10 children died in the Coptic church fire in Cairo

41 people including 10 children died in the Coptic church fire in Cairo
Written by admin

CAIRO (AP) — A fire broke out in a packed Coptic Orthodox church during morning services in Egypt’s capital Sunday, quickly engulfing it in thick black smoke and killing 41 worshipers, including at least 10 children.

Witnesses said several trapped people tried to escape the intense fire by jumping from the upper floor of the Shaheed Abu Sefin Church. “Suffocation, suffocation, everyone is dead,” said a district witness, who gave only a partial name, Abu Bhaiy.

16 people including four policemen were injured in the rescue operation.

The cause of the fire at the church in the working-class neighborhood of Imbaba was not immediately known. Preliminary investigations point to an electrical short circuit, a police statement said.

Sobbing families waited inside the church and outside to speak to relatives at nearby hospitals where the victims were taken. Footage from the scene circulated online showed charred furniture, including wooden tables and chairs. Firefighters were seen putting out the fire while others took the injured to ambulances.

Witnesses said that there were many children inside the four-storey building at the time of the fire.

“There are children there, we didn’t know how to get to them,” said Abu Fayy. “And we don’t know whose son it is, or whose daughter it is. Is it possible?”

A hospital document obtained by The Associated Press said Imbaba Public Hospital received 20 bodies, including 10 children. There were three siblings, twins aged 5 and a 3-year-old, it said. Church Bishop Abdul Masih Bakhit was also among the dead at the hospital morgue.

The bodies of 21 people were taken to other hospitals. It was not immediately known if there were children among them.

Among the dead were 5-year-old triplets, their mother, grandmother and an aunt, Coptic Orthodox Church spokesman Musa Ibrahim told the AP. He said the funeral of the dead will be held in two churches in the nearby neighborhood of Warak.

Eyewitness Emad Hanna said the church has two spaces used as a daycare and a church worker was able to get some of the children out.

“We went up and saw people dead. And we started to see from outside that the smoke was getting bigger, and people wanted to jump from the top floor,” Hanna said.

“We found children,” some dead, some alive, he said.

The country’s health minister blamed smoke and stampedes as people tried to escape the fire for the loss of life. This is one of the worst fires in Egypt in recent years.

The church is located on a narrow street in the most densely populated area of ​​Cairo. Sunday is the first working day of the week, and there is a traffic jam in and around Imbama in the morning.

Some relatives criticized what they said were delays in the arrival of ambulances and firefighters. “They came after people died… they came after burning the church,” shouted a woman standing outside the church.

Health Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghafar countered that the first ambulance arrived at the scene two minutes after the fire was reported.

Fifteen fire engines were dispatched to the spot to douse the fire and ambulances were taking the injured to nearby hospitals, officials said.

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

“I am closely following the development of the tragic accident,” El-Sisi wrote on Facebook. “I have directed all concerned state agencies and institutions to deal with the accident and its implications and take all necessary measures immediately.”

Health Minister Abdel-Gafar said in a statement that two of the injured have been released from hospital and the others are still being treated.

The Interior Ministry said it received a report of the fire at 9 a.m. local time and that first responders found the fire had spread from an air conditioner on the second floor of the building.

The ministry, which oversees police and firefighters, blamed an electrical short-circuit for the fire, which produced a large amount of smoke. Meanwhile, the country’s chief prosecutor, Hamada El-Sawi, has ordered an investigation and a team of prosecutors has been sent to the church. He said most of the victims died of smoke inhalation.

Later on Sunday, emergency services said they had managed to put out the fire and the prime minister and other senior government officials visited the scene. Premier Mustafa Madbouli said the surviving victims and families of the dead would receive money as compensation and the government would rebuild the church.

Egypt’s Christians make up about 10% of the country’s population of more than 103 million and have long complained of discrimination by the country’s Muslim majority.

Sunday’s fire was one of Egypt’s worst fire tragedies in recent years, where safety standards and fire regulations are poorly enforced. In March last year, a fire at a clothing factory near Cairo killed at least 20 people and injured another 24.

About the author


Leave a Comment