Officials: Fire at Coptic church in Cairo kills 41, hurts 14

CAIRO (AP) – A fire tore through a church in a densely populated neighborhood of the Egyptian capital Cairo…

CAIRO (AP) — A fire ripped through a church in a densely populated neighborhood of the Egyptian capital Cairo on Sunday as congregants worshiped, killing at least 41 and injuring 14, the Coptic Church said.

It was one of the worst fire tragedies in Egypt in recent years.

The cause of the fire, which produced large amounts of smoke at the Abu Sefein Church in the working-class neighborhood of Imbaba, was not immediately known. An initial investigation pointed to an electrical short circuit, according to a police statement.

The Coptic Church cited health officials to report the number of victims. He said the fire occurred while the service was being done.

15 fire engines were sent to the scene to put out the flames while ambulances took the victims to nearby hospitals.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi spoke by phone with Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences, the president’s office said.

“I am closely following the evolution of the tragic accident,” El-Sissi wrote on Facebook. “I ordered all agencies and state institutions involved to take all necessary measures and to immediately deal with this accident and its effects.”

The Health Ministry said ambulances took at least 55 injured people to local hospitals. He did not give a death toll.

The Ministry of Interior said it received a report about the fire at 9am local time and found that the fire broke out in an air conditioner on the second floor of the building .

The ministry, which oversees police and firefighters, blamed an electrical short circuit for the fire, which produced a large amount of smoke.

The country’s chief prosecutor, Hamada el-Sawy, ordered an investigation and a team of prosecutors was sent to the church.

Egypt’s Christians make up 10% of the country’s 90 million people and have long complained of discrimination by the country’s Muslim majority.

Sunday’s blaze was one of the worst fire tragedies in recent years in a country where safety and fire regulations are poorly enforced. In March last year, a fire at a clothing factory near Cairo killed at least 20 people and injured 24 others.

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