Fire at Egypt Coptic Church Kills Dozens During Sunday Prayers

CAIRO — No less than 41 folks had been killed and a couple of dozen others injured after a hearth broke out in a Coptic Orthodox church in better Cairo as worshipers gathered for Sunday prayers, in response to the nation’s Well being Ministry.

The blaze at Abu Sefein Church — one of many largest within the municipality of Giza — was one of many nation’s deadliest in recent times. It’s believed to have been attributable to a defective air-conditioning unit on the second ground of the constructing, which additionally housed lecture rooms, the Egyptian Inside Ministry stated in an announcement.

Father Mikhael Guirguis, the deputy chief of the Northern Giza archdiocese, informed a church-affiliated TV station that he noticed youngsters among the many lifeless. One other priest at a close-by church who additionally spoke to the identical TV station stated youngsters had been moved to the highest ground of the constructing when the fireplace broke out, quite than being evacuated.

The vast majority of the deaths and accidents had been the results of smoke inhalation and a stampede as folks tried to flee the burning constructing, the Health Ministry said. The Inside Ministry stated that the blaze was beneath management.

Video footage from the scene that was verified by The Occasions confirmed churchgoers screaming for help from windows as thick black smoke poured out from the constructing. In different footage, folks could possibly be seen trapped on the church’s roof as the fireplace unfold round them.

Some residents of Imbaba, the densely packed neighborhood that’s house to the church, criticized the response of the federal government and emergency companies. One lady stated in footage shared from the scene by Al Jazeera that emergency companies didn’t arrive for 2 and a half hours.

Footage from exterior one of many hospitals the place sufferers had been being handled confirmed an indignant crowd. The supply of their ire was not instantly clear. Egypt’s prime minister, Mostafa Madbouly, together with different senior politicians, was visiting the injured within the hospital.

“I am closely following the developments of the tragic accident,” Mr. el-Sisi said in a statement on Twitter. “I directed all concerned state agencies and institutions to take all necessary measures.”

The nation’s chief prosecutor, Hamada el-Sawy, stated he had ordered an investigation into the blaze.

Egypt has been repeatedly plagued in recent times by fires that spiral into mass casualty occasions, drawing criticism of the federal government’s emergency response and in addition to its fire-safety requirements and laws.

In 2002, no less than 370 folks had been killed when a hearth broke out on an in a single day prepare dashing via the expanse of Higher Egypt and flames unfold from automotive to automotive. In 2005, no less than 31 folks died in a blaze at a state-owned theater within the metropolis of Beni Suef after a candle fell throughout a manufacturing of “Hamlet.”

In 2008, a hearth gutted the Higher Home of Egypt’s Parliament, injuring no less than 10 folks. A blaze at a garment manufacturing facility close to Cairo killed no less than 20 folks in March 2021. And two separate hospital fires — in 2020 and 2021 — killed a complete of 9 coronavirus sufferers within the cities of Alexandria and Giza.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 p.c of Egypt’s 100 million inhabitants, which is usually Sunni Muslim. The minority group is steadily the goal of widespread discrimination and violent assaults, together with by the Islamic State’s department in Egypt’s Sinai Province.

Nada Rashwan reported from Cairo, Euan Ward from London and Liam Stack from New York.