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Officers: Hearth at Coptic church in Cairo kills 41, hurts 14

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CAIRO — A fireplace ripped by means of a packed church throughout morning companies in Egypt’s capital on Sunday, killing not less than 41 worshippers and injuring 14.

The church rapidly stuffed with thick black smoke, and witnesses stated a number of trapped congregants jumped from higher flooring to flee. “Suffocation, suffocation, all of them useless,” stated a distraught witness, who solely gave a partial identify, Abu Bishoy.

The reason for the blaze within the Abu Sefein church within the working-class neighborhood of Imbaba was not instantly identified. An preliminary investigation pointed to {an electrical} short-circuit, based on a police assertion.

Footage from the scene circulated on-line confirmed burned furnishings, together with picket tables and chairs. Firefighters had been seen placing out the blaze whereas others carried victims to ambulances. Households waited for phrase on family who had been contained in the church.

Witnesses stated there have been many youngsters contained in the constructing when the hearth broke out.

“There are kids we didn’t know the best way to get to them,” stated Abu Bishoy. “And we don’t know whose son that is, or whose daughter that’s. Is that this potential?”

The nation’s well being minister blamed the smoke and a stampede as individuals tried to flee the hearth for inflicting the fatalities. It was one of many worst fireplace tragedies in Egypt lately.

Witness Emad Hanna stated the church contains two locations used as a daycare for youngsters, and {that a} church employee managed to get many youngsters out.

“We went upstairs and located individuals useless. And we began to see from exterior that the smoke was getting greater, and folks need to leap from the higher flooring. … We discovered the youngsters.”

Egypt’s Coptic Church and the nation’s well being ministry reported the casualty toll. The church stated the hearth broke out whereas a service was underway. The church is positioned in a slim road in probably the most densely populated neighborhoods in Cairo.

Fifteen firefighting autos had been dispatched to the scene to place out the flames whereas ambulances ferried casualties to close by hospitals, officers stated.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi spoke by telephone with the Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II to supply his condolences, the president’s workplace stated. Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, additionally provided his condolences to the top of the Coptic church.

“I’m intently following the developments of the tragic accident,” el-Sissi wrote on Fb. “I directed all involved state businesses and establishments to take all obligatory measures, and instantly to cope with this accident and its results.”

Well being Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghafar stated in an announcement that two of the injured had been discharged from a hospital whereas 12 others had been nonetheless being handled.

The Inside Ministry stated it acquired a report on the hearth at 9 a.m. native time, and that they discovered that the blaze broke out in an air conditioner within the constructing’s second flooring.

The ministry, which oversees police and firefighters, blamed {an electrical} short-circuit for the hearth, which produced big quantities of smoke. In the meantime, the nation’s chief prosecutor, Hamada el-Sawy, ordered an investigation and a workforce of prosecutors had been dispatched to the church.

Afterward Sunday, emergency companies stated they managed to place out the blaze and the prime minister and different senior authorities officers arrived to examine the location.

Egypt’s Christians account for some 10% of the nation’s greater than 103 million individuals and have lengthy complained of discrimination by the nation’s Muslim majority.

Sunday’s blaze was one of many worst fireplace tragedies lately in Egypt, the place security requirements and fireplace rules are poorly enforced. In March final yr, a fireplace at a garment manufacturing facility close to Cairo killed not less than 20 individuals and injured 24 extra.

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