Giza(Egypt): Over 40 people are reported killed after a fire broke out at a Coptic church in Egypt’s Giza city. Officials say the number of dead is at least 41, including children, with dozens left injured.
Many people were crushed during a desperate scramble to escape as the blaze broke out while 5,000 worshipers were gathered for the Sunday Mass at the Coptic Abu Sifin church here, international media reported.
The fire blocked an entrance, causing a stampede, they said.
Citing hospital records, CNN reported that some 18 children, aged between 3 to 16 years, were killed.
Fire services said the exact cause of the fire remains unclear. However, a foreign news agency reported the possibility that it was sparked by a short circuit.
“The power was out and they were using a generator,” he said. “When the power came back, it caused an overload”, the BBC report added.
Worshipers have been explaining their moments since the blaze ignited.
According to reports in the international media, people were gathering on the third and fourth floors, and smoke was seen coming from the second floor. People rushed to go down the stairs and started falling over each other, one of the eyewitnesses said.
There was an explosion sound and sparks and fire lept out of the window, said one of the worshipers, who managed to escape with his daughter from the ground floor.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered his “sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims that have passed on to be with their Lord in one of his houses of worship”.
He has ordered the armed forces to rebuild the church. The prosecutor’s office said it had sent a team to the scene to investigate the cause of the blaze.
Giza lies just across the Nile from Cairo and is part of the Greater Cairo metropolis. Coptic Christians make up at least 10 million of Egypt’s 103 million people. Copts claim they face discrimination and play a lesser part in Egyptian public life than their numbers justify, the BBC said.