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At least 41 dead in Egyptian church fire

Most are children who have been trampled

At least 41 people were killed and 45 injured in a fire caused by an electrical failure during Mass at a Coptic Christian church in the Egyptian city of Giza on Sunday, Egyptian officials said.

The fire started just before 9 am (local time), when 5,000 people were gathering for mass at Abu Sifin church in the Imbaba neighborhood, two sources said.

The fire blocked the entrance to the church, causing one to be trampled, they said, adding that most of the dead were children.

“People were gathering on the third and fourth floors, and we saw smoke coming from the second floor. People ran down the stairs and started falling on each other,” said Yasir Munir, a church faithful.

“Then we heard a bang and sparks and fire coming out of the window,” he said, claiming that he and his daughter were downstairs and managed to escape.

Electrical fires of this type are not a rare occurrence in Egypt; in late 2020, a fire at a hospital treating Covid-19 patients killed at least seven people and injured several others.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry said a forensic examination showed the fire started in the church’s second-floor air conditioner as a result of an electrical fault.

Smoke inhalation was the main cause of deaths and injuries, he said. The families of those who died will receive 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($5,223), according to a statement from the cabinet.

“I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims who left us to be with their Lord in one of his houses of worship,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a tweet.

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