An electrical fire broke out during a Mass in a church located in city of Gaza near Cairo, where at least 41 people were killed and 45 people were injured in the blaze
At least 41 people were killed and 45 injured in a fire in a church in the Egyptian city of Giza on Sunday, according to Reuters, citing two security sources
An electrical fire broke out just before 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) during Mass as 5,000 people gathered at the Coptic Abu Sifin church in Imbaba neighborhood, Giza, the sources said.
The fire blocked an entrance to the church, causing a stampede, they said, adding that most of those killed were children.
“People were gathering on the third and fourth floor, and we saw smoke coming from the second floor. People rushed to go down the stairs and stared falling on top of each other,” said Yasir Munir, a worshipper at the church.
“Then we heard a bang and sparks and fire coming out of the window,” he said, saying he and his daughter were on the ground floor and able to escape.
Electrical fires of this kind are not a rare occurrence in Egypt; in late 2020, a fire at a hospital treating COVID-19 patients killed at least seven people and injured several others.
Giza, Egypt’s second-largest city, lies just across the Nile from Cairo.
The presence of a nursery inside the church prompted fears most of the dead are children, Reuters reported.
“I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims that have passed on to be with their Lord in one of his houses of worship,” said Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a tweet. He also wrote on Facebook: ‘I have directed all relevant state agencies and institutions to take all necessary measures, immediately, to deal with this incident and its effects and to provide all aspect of healthcare to the injured.’
Maher Murad said he left his sister at the church after prayers.
“As soon as I got away from the church by only 10 meters, I heard the sound of screaming and saw thick smoke,” he said.
“After the firefighter doused the fire, I recognized my sister’s body. The bodies are all charred, and many of them are children, who were in a nursery room in the church.”
“Worshippers had gathered to mark the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, one of the holiest dates in the Christian calendar.
The initial death toll was thought to be 35, with AP reporting the higher number of 41 just before midday. The number injured is estimated to be between 14 and 45.
‘People were gathering on the third and fourth floor, and we saw smoke coming from the second floor. People rushed to go down the stairs and stared falling on top of each other,’ said Yasir Munir, a worshipper at the church.
‘Then we heard a bang and sparks and fire coming out of the window,’ he said, adding that he and his daughter were on the ground floor and able to escape.
An exploded generator is thought to have caused the fire, which then prompted a stampede.
Police said an initial investigation blamed an electrical short-circuit.
The statement said the fire broke out while congregation was underway Sunday morning.
A local news agency reported that the parish priest was also killed in the tragic incident.
Coptic archbishop of London Anba Angaelos tweeted: ‘Devastating news of Egypt Church Fire this morning during the Divine Liturgy, with 41 confirmed dead and 45 injured so far.
‘Praying repose for the departed, healing for the injured, and comfort for families, friends and the community deeply affected.’
The Greek government also sent out a message of condolences to the fire victims, tweeting after midday: ‘Deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in a fire at a church in Giza, Egypt.
‘Our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families &wishes for a swift recovery to the injured. At this difficult time, Greece stands in full solidarity with our close friends the people and Government of Egypt.’