Dozens killed in church fire

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A massive fire in the Coptic Abu Sifin church in the Egyptian city of Giza has claimed lives of at least 41 people, local media reported, citing health officials. The blaze, which broke out during mass on Sunday attended by some 5,000 worshippers, also left at least 55 people injured.

According to police, an initial investigation showed that the fire started due to an electrical short circuit in an air-conditioning unit.

“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 started falling on top of each other,” a worshipper identified as Yasir Munir told Reuters. The fire reportedly caused a stampede. 

“Then we heard a bang and sparks and fire coming out of the window,” said Munir, who was himself on the ground floor together with his daughter and was able to escape. Photos and videos of the aftermath of the fire show charred pieces of furniture strewn across the burnt-out rooms of the church. 

Photos taking while the church was ablaze show thick plumes of black smoke billowing out of the church windows. According to some of the witnesses, many of those killed were children. “The bodies are all charred, and many of them are children, who were in a nursery room in the church,” a man identified as Maher Murad told Reuters, adding that he lost his sister in the fire too. 

Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, expressed his “sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims.” He said that “all state services” had been mobilized to “ensure that all measures are taken.” 

Egypt has seen several other deadly fires in recent years. In 2020, 14 Covid-19 patients died in two hospital blazes, while in March 2021, at least 20 people were killed in a fire at a textile factory in an eastern suburb of Cairo.

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