Fire at Egypt Coptic Church Kills Dozens During Sunday Prayers

CAIRO — At least 41 folks had been killed and a couple of dozen others injured after a fireplace broke out in a Coptic Orthodox church in higher Cairo as worshipers gathered for Sunday prayers, in accordance with the nation’s Health Ministry.

The blaze at Abu Sefein Church — one of many largest within the municipality of Giza — left a number of youngsters and the church’s bishop useless, in accordance with witnesses and officers.

The fireplace is believed to have been brought on by a defective air-conditioning unit on the second ground of the constructing, which additionally housed lecture rooms, the Egyptian Interior Ministry mentioned in an announcement. The nation’s chief prosecutor, Hamada el-Sawy, mentioned he had ordered an investigation into the fireplace.

Father Mikhael Guirguis, the deputy chief of the Northern Giza archdiocese, advised a church-affiliated TV station that he noticed the our bodies of youngsters after the blaze. Another priest at a close-by church who additionally spoke to the identical TV station mentioned youngsters had been moved to the highest ground of the constructing when the fireplace broke out, slightly than being evacuated.

The 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 mentioned. The Interior Ministry later mentioned that the blaze had been introduced beneath management.

Video footage from the scene that was verified by The Times confirmed churchgoers screaming for assist from home windows as thick black smoke poured out from the constructing. In different footage, folks might 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, mentioned that first responders arrived inside quarter-hour and had been shortly capable of put out the flames.

Footage from exterior one of many hospitals the place sufferers had been being handled confirmed an offended 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 mentioned in an announcement on Twitter. “I directed all concerned state agencies and institutions to take all necessary measures.”

The authorities introduced that the households of the victims of the blaze would obtain 100,000 Egyptian kilos (roughly $5,223), and the injured would obtain 20,000 kilos (about $1,004), in accordance with an announcement by Egypt’s cupboard.

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, at least 370 folks had been killed when a fireplace broke out on an in a single day practice rushing via the expanse of higher Egypt as flames unfold from automotive to automotive. In 2005, at least 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 fireplace gutted the Upper House of Egypt’s Parliament, injuring at least 10 folks. A blaze at a garment manufacturing unit close to Cairo killed at least 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 generally Sunni Muslim. The minority group is often the goal of widespread discrimination and violent assaults, together with by the Islamic State’s department in Egypt’s Sinai Province.

For many years, Christians in Egypt have complained that authorities restrictions on the development, renovation and restore of church buildings had been half of a bigger sample of discrimination that relegated them to second-class citizenship and left a lot of their homes of worship in disrepair.

Legislation relationship to 1934 prohibits church buildings from being constructed close to faculties and authorities buildings, and constructing permits have historically solely been issued by presidential decree. The authorities has traditionally considered such church initiatives as a possible safety situation that should be tightly managed, partially due to the nation’s historical past of sectarian clashes, significantly in poor and rural areas, in accordance with a 2018 report by the Project for Middle East Democracy, a U.S.-based analysis institute.

Thousands of church buildings have been constructed with out official authorization consequently, usually in flagrant violation of primary fire-safety requirements.

Under strain from Egypt’s Christian minority, Mr. el-Sisi launched a regulation in 2016 that aimed to overtake these laws. Though the regulation was hailed at the time as an important first step in ending many years of discrimination, its implementation has since been marred by dysfunction and sluggish paperwork.

The blaze drew condolences from overseas governments on Sunday. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “deep sadness and sorrow.”

The U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Egypt, Nicole Shampaine, mentioned an announcement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Church in Giza and across Egypt.” Britain’s ambassador to Egypt, Gareth Bayley, additionally supplied his condolences.

Later on Sunday, kin held a funeral Mass for the victims at a church within the Warraq neighborhood. The our bodies had been taken from hospitals to a church there for the ceremony.

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

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