Hearth Breaks Out at Packed Church in Cairo, Many Youngsters Among the many 41 Churchgoers Killed

CAIRO (AP) – A fireplace ripped by way of a packed Coptic Orthodox church throughout morning providers in Egypt’s capital on Sunday, shortly filling it with thick black smoke and killing 41 worshippers, together with no less than 10 youngsters. Fourteen individuals had been injured.
  
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 useless,” stated a distraught witness, who solely gave a partial title, Abu Bishoy.
  
The reason for the blaze on the church within the working-class neighborhood of Imbaba was not instantly identified. An preliminary investigation pointed to {an electrical} short-circuit, in response to a police assertion.

  
Footage from the scene circulated on-line confirmed burned furnishings, together with wood tables and chairs. Firefighters had been seen placing out the blaze whereas others carried victims to ambulances. Weeping households waited exterior for phrase on family members nonetheless contained in the church and at close by hospitals the place the victims had been taken.
  
Witnesses stated there have been many youngsters contained in the four-story constructing when the fireplace broke out.
  
“There are kids, we didn’t know get to them,” stated Abu Bishoy. “And we don’t know whose son that is, or whose daughter that’s. Is that this doable?”
  
A hospital doc obtained by The Related Press stated the Imbaba public hospital obtained 20 our bodies, together with 10 youngsters. Three had been siblings, twins aged 5 and a 3-year-old, it stated. The church bishop, Abdul Masih Bakhit, was additionally amongst these on the hospital morgue. 
  
Twenty-one our bodies had been taken to different hospitals. It was not instantly identified if youngsters had been amongst them.
  
The nation’s well being minister blamed the smoke and a stampede as individuals tried to flee the fireplace for inflicting the fatalities. It was one of many worst fireplace tragedies in Egypt in recent times.
  
Witness Emad Hanna stated the church contains two locations used as a daycare for kids, and {that a} church employee managed to get some youngsters out.
  
“We went upstairs and located individuals useless. And we began to see from exterior that the smoke was getting larger, and folks need to bounce from the higher ground,” Hanna stated. 
  
“We discovered the kids,” some useless, some alive, he stated.
  
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church and the nation’s well being ministry reported the casualty toll. 
  
The church is situated in a slim road in some of the densely populated neighborhoods in Cairo. Sunday is the primary working day of the week, and visitors jams clog the streets in Imbama and surrounding areas within the morning.
  
Some family members criticized what they stated had been delays within the arrival of ambulance and firefighters. “They got here after individuals died … They got here after the church burned down,” shouted one girl whereas standing exterior the burned church.
  
Well being Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghafar countered that the primary ambulance arrived on the web site two minutes after the fireplace was reported.
  
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, and different authorities officers additionally supplied 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 needed measures, and instantly to take care of this accident and its results.”
  
Abdel-Ghafar, the well being minister, stated in a press release that two of the injured had been discharged from a hospital whereas 12 others had been nonetheless being handled.
  
The Inside Ministry stated it obtained a report of the fireplace 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 ground.
  
The ministry, which oversees police and firefighters, blamed {an electrical} short-circuit for the fireplace, which produced large quantities of smoke. In the meantime, the nation’s chief prosecutor, Hamada el-Sawy, ordered an investigation and a staff of prosecutors had been dispatched to the church.
  
In a while Sunday, emergency providers 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 will obtain funds as compensations and that the federal government would rebuild the church as quickly as doable.
  
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 in recent times in Egypt, the place security requirements and fireplace laws are poorly enforced. In March final yr, a hearth at a garment manufacturing unit close to Cairo killed no less than 20 individuals and injured 24 extra.

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