Officials: Fire At Coptic Church In Cairo Kills 41

CAIRO (AP) — A fireplace ripped by a packed Coptic Orthodox church throughout morning companies in Egypt’s capital on Sunday, rapidly filling it with thick black smoke and killing 41 worshippers, together with at the very least 10 kids.

A number of trapped congregants jumped from higher flooring of the Martyr Abu Sefein church to attempt to escape the extraordinary flames, witnesses stated. “Suffocation, suffocation, all of them dead,” stated a distraught witness, who solely gave a partial title, Abu Bishoy.

Sixteen individuals have been injured, together with 4 policemen concerned within the rescue effort.

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

Weeping households waited outdoors for phrase about family members nonetheless contained in the church and at close by hospitals the place the victims have been taken. Footage from the scene circulated on-line confirmed burned furnishings, together with picket tables and chairs. Firefighters have been seen placing out the blaze whereas others carried victims to ambulances.

Witnesses stated there have been many kids contained in the four-story constructing, which had two day care services, when the hearth broke out.

“There are children, we didn’t know how to get to them,” stated Abu Bishoy. “And we don’t know whose son this is, or whose daughter that is. Is this possible?”

A hospital doc obtained by The Related Press stated 20 our bodies, together with 10 kids, have been taken to the Imbaba public hospital. Three have been siblings, twins aged 5 and a 3-year-old, it stated. The church bishop, Abdul Masih Bakhit, was additionally among the many useless on the hospital morgue.

Twenty-one our bodies have been taken to different hospitals. It was not instantly recognized if kids have been amongst them.

Mousa Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Coptic Orthodox Church, informed the AP that 5-year-old triplets, their mom, grandmother and an aunt have been amongst these killed.

Witness Emad Hanna stated a church employee managed to get some kids out of the church day care services.

“We went upstairs and found people dead. And we started to see from outside that the smoke was getting bigger, and people want to jump from the upper floor,” Hanna stated.

“We found the children,” some useless, some alive, he added.

Burned furnishings, together with picket tables and chairs, and a non secular pictures are seen on the website of a fireplace contained in the Abu Sefein Coptic church within the densely populated neighborhood of Imbaba, Cairo Egypt, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. (AP Picture/Tarek Wajeh)

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 hearth tragedies in Egypt in recent times.

The church is positioned in a slender road in one of the vital densely populated neighborhoods in Cairo. Sunday is the primary working day of the week, and site visitors jams clog the streets in Imbama and surrounding areas within the morning.

Some family members criticized what they stated have been delays within the arrival of ambulances and firefighters. “They came after people died. … They came after the church burned down,” shouted one girl standing outdoors the smoldering church.

Well being Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghafar countered that the primary ambulance arrived on the website two minutes after the hearth was reported.

Fifteen firefighting autos have 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 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 condolences to the pinnacle of the Coptic church.

“I am closely following the developments of the tragic accident,” el-Sissi wrote on Fb. “I directed all concerned state agencies and institutions to take all necessary measures, and immediately to deal with this accident and its effects.”

Abdel-Ghafar, the well being minister, stated in a press release that two of the injured have been discharged from a hospital whereas the others have been nonetheless being handled.

The Interior Ministry stated it acquired a report of the hearth at 9 a.m. native time, and first responders discovered that the blaze had damaged out in an air conditioner on the constructing’s second flooring.

The ministry, which oversees police and firefighters, blamed {an electrical} short-circuit for the hearth, which produced enormous quantities of smoke. In the meantime, the nation’s chief prosecutor, Hamada el-Sawy, ordered an investigation and a staff of prosecutors have been dispatched to the church. He stated most victims died of smoke inhalation.

By Sunday afternoon, emergency companies stated they managed to place out the blaze and the prime minister and different senior authorities officers arrived to examine the location. Premier Mustafa Madbouly stated surviving victims and households of the useless would obtain funds as compensation and that the federal government would rebuild the church.

By late afternoon, caskets carrying the useless have been transferred in ambulances for pre-burial prayers at two church buildings within the close by Waraq neighborhood, as weeping ladies lined their path.

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 hearth tragedies in recent times in Egypt, the place security requirements and hearth laws are poorly enforced. In March final 12 months, a fireplace at a garment manufacturing unit close to Cairo killed at the very least 20 individuals and injured 24.