Fire Breaks Out in Egyptian Church, Killing 41 People, Including Children



​At least 41 people, including 18 children, have died during Sunday service at the Coptic Orthodox church in Giza, Cairo, Egypt. The incident happened at about 9 am on Sunday, during church service, after a fire broke out inside the church. Officials and eyewitnesses say the fire was a result of some electrical faults.  

“The power was out, and they were using a generator. When the power came back, it caused an overload,” Father Farid Fahmy, from a nearby church in the area, told AFP news.

Mariam Malak, 23, told CNN that the fire broke out a few minutes after she left the church.

“I left the church after Sunday Mass and was on my way to work when my mom called me. She thought I was caught in the fire. I turned back and saw (the) church in flames. I just missed it by only a few minutes,” Mariam said.

“Everyone who was there went up to heavens, including our father Abdel Masih, who led the prayers this morning and a lot of our families and friends. We are trying to identify everyone now,” she added.

“People were gathering on the third and fourth floor, and we saw smoke coming from the second floor. People rushed to go down the stairs and started falling on top of each other,” Yasir Munir told Reuters.

He added that he managed to escape with his daughter before the fire got beyond control.

“Then we heard a bang and sparks and fire coming out of the window,” he said.

According to a statement released by State prosecutor-general Hamada El-Sawy, 41 people have been confirmed dead. 

“The death toll stood at 41 and injuries at 14, including two police officers and two personnel,” the prosecution said, adding that “the prosecution team has examined all of the victims’ bodies and found no outward injuries on the deceased bodies except suffocation signs.”

The statement added that the fire started at 8:57 am and that the prosecution team was investigating the scene for any criminal evidence. 

“The public prosecution also ordered the Public Administration for Criminal Evidence to collect the traces in the scene in order to determine the cause of the accident and how it happened,” the statement continued.

“There are Children” 

At least 18 children were confirmed dead at the fire incident. Most of them died of suffocation.

“Suffocation, suffocation, all of them dead. There are children, we didn’t know how to get to them,” said Abu Bishoy, as reported by Aljazeera.

Another eyewitness, Emad Hanna, said the church was divided into two sections. One part was for children while the other was for adults, and a church worker managed to save some children.

“We went upstairs and found people dead. And we started to see from the outside that the smoke was getting bigger, and people want to jump from the upper floor,” Hanna said, adding that they found children inside the church. Some were dead, and others were alive.

The spokesperson for the Coptic Orthodox Church, Mousa Ibrahim, said five-year-old triplets, their mother and another relative died in the fire incident. 

Another member of the church, Maher Murad, who left before the fire outbreak, said he heard screaming after stepping outside the church.

“As soon as I got away from the church by only 10 metres [3 feet], I heard the sound of screaming and saw thick smoke,” he said.

Sadly, Murad lost his sister to the incident. He also confirmed that many of the victims were children.

“After the firefighters doused the fire, I recognized my sister’s body. The bodies were all charred, and many of them are children who were in a nursery room in the church,” Murad added. 

Government’s Reaction

After the fire incident, the President of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, directed concerned state agencies to immediately begin action.

I am closely following the developments of the tragic accident in Al-Munira Church in Giza Governorate, and I have directed all concerned state agencies and institutions to take all necessary measures, and immediately to deal with this accident and its effects, and to provide all aspects of health care for the injured,” the President said. 

I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims who moved to the side of their Lord in one of the houses in which they are worshipped, he added on Twitter.

All the victims were transferred to Imbaba General Hospital and Al-Agouza Hospital for medical attention.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, alongside other top ministers, visited the two hospitals on Sunday to see how the victims were doing. The Egyptian Red Cresent has also sent psychological support teams to the hospitals to enable quick recovery.

The Prime Minister announced monetary compensation to each of the families of a deceased person and the families of the injured.

He said families of a deceased person will get EGP 100,000 ($5,226) while families of the injured will receive EGP 20,000 ($1,045). Other groups have also promised monetary donations to the families, including Egypt’s top Islamic authority Al-Azhar.