At least 41 people were killed and 45 injured in a fire inside a church in the Egyptian city of Giza on Sunday, security sources told Reuters.
An electrical fire broke out as 5,000 worshippers gathered for Mass at the Coptic Abu Sifin church in the Imbaba neighbourhood, the sources said.
The fire blocked an entrance to the church, causing a stampede, they said, adding most of those killed were children.
The country’s interior ministry said was caused by an electrical fault with an air-conditioning unit.
Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi spoke to Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic church, and extended his condolences, according to a statement from Mr Sisi’s office.
“I offer my 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,” Mr Sisi said in a tweet.
“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 stared falling on top of each other,” said Yasir Munir, a worshipper at the church.
“Then we heard a bang and sparks and fire coming out of the window,” he said, saying he and his daughter were on the ground floor and able to escape.
Maher Murad said he left his sister at the church after prayers. “As soon as I got away from the church by only 10 metres, I heard the sound of screaming and saw thick smoke,” he said.
“After the firefighter doused the fire, I recognised my sister’s body. The bodies are all charred, and many of them are children, who were in a nursery room in the church.”
Electrical fires of this kind 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.
Giza, Egypt’s second-largest city, lies just across the Nile from Cairo. — Agencies