Egypt: At least forty one died after fire in church
A fire that broke out on Sunday in the middle of a mass in a church in a working-class district of Cairo has killed 41 people, leaving the Middle East’s largest Christian community of 10-15 million Egyptians in grief.
“The air conditioner in a classroom on the second floor of the church building broke down and released a large amount of smoke, which was the main cause of the injuries and deaths,” the interior ministry said.
The Abu Sifine church – named after the Coptic saint Mercury of Caesarea – is stuck in a narrow alley in the popular Imbaba neighborhood.
One of the fire trucks working there on Sunday was clogging up almost the entire width of the street in this densely populated area on the left bank of the Nile. The church is on the ground floor of a building, topped by a cross. It is also housing a social services centre, said a photographer on the spot.
Father Farid Fahmy, a clergyman at the nearby Mar Yemina church, said that “the fire started because of a generator that went on after a power cut and was overloaded”. The public prosecutor’s office announced that it had opened an investigation and sent a team to the scene, while the Ministry of Health said it had dispatched several dozen ambulances.
President Abdelfattah al-Sissi announced that he had “mobilised all the state services so that all measures are taken”. He had “presented his condolences by phone” to Coptic Pope Tawadros II, head of the Christian community in Egypt since 2012.
Since then, the Coptic Orthodox Church has become more visible on the political scene, under the leadership of Tawadros II, a proclaimed supporter of Mr al-Sissi, who is the first Egyptian president to attend the Coptic Christmas mass every year while his predecessors sent representatives.
In the sprawling megalopolis of Cairo, where millions of Egyptians live in informal settlements, accidental fires are not uncommon. More generally, Egypt, with its dilapidated and poorly maintained infrastructure, regularly experiences deadly fires in its various provinces.