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Giza church fire

Giza church fire
Date14 August 2022
LocationGiza, Egypt
TypeFire
Deaths41
Non-fatal injuries45

On 14 August 2022, a fire broke out at the Abu Sefein Church, a Coptic church in the Imbaba neighborhood of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, during Sunday worship services when nearly 5,000 worshippers were gathered. The Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population reported that 41 people had died, including several children. Forty-five people, including rescue workers, were injured. One of the church's priests, Abdul Masih Bakhit, was among those killed in the fire.

Background

Electrical fires occur often in Egypt, where building and inspection standards are substandard and poorly enforced. Multiple fires have occured in hospitals, with one in 2020 killing seven coronavirus patients. A fire aboard a train that spread throughout the coaches killed 370 people in 2002, and more recently a fire in a garment factory outside of Cairo killed 20 people in 2021.

The Abu Sefein Church is one of the largest in Giza, the second largest city in Egypt after neighboring Cairo. Egyptian law strictly regulates construction in churches, historically requiring a presidential decree to gain a building permit. Due to the difficulty in gaining approval for projects, unauthorized construction is widespread, often without following fire safety regulations.

Fire

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior said that the fire was caused by a faulty air-conditioning unit on the second floor of the church. According to the Ministry of Health most of the deaths were due to smoke inhalation and being trampled in the stampede to escape the building.

The church hosts a nursery, and the security services reported that most of those killed were children.

One local hospital's records showed 20 bodies received, among them 10 children, while another local hospital received 21 bodies. A neighboring church's priest said that children were taken to higher floors to escape the blaze instead of being evacuated. Eyewitnesses reported that people attempted to jump to safety from the upper floors to escape the fire. Bystanders reportedly rushed in to the church to help evacuate those trapped until the fire's intensity and smoke became too overwhelming.

The fire's death toll was among the worst in Egypt's recent history, and the country's top prosecutor ordered an investigation into the blaze. Relatives of those trapped in the church said that the paramedics and firefighters were slow in reaching the site, with one witness interviewed by Al Jazeera saying it took two hours for a firetruck to arrive, while the Health Ministry said the first fire truck arrived two minutes after the first reports of a fire were received. Eyewitnesses reported that the fire began at 8 am and lasted for two hours.

While Egypt's Copts have faced discrimination, attacks and religious violence, both the church authorities and the Egyptian state agencies believe this fire to be accidental.

Reactions

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi issued a statement expressing his regret, saying "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 of worship." Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced that each deceased person's family would be given 100,000 Egyptian pounds in compensation, while those injured would be given up to 20,000 Egyptian pounds, and the Minister of Social Solidarity further announced that al-Azhar Mosque and other civil society groups would be offering an additional 50,000 Egyptian pounds to the victims and their families. Al-Azhar Mosque expressed its condolences, and the Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb offered his sympathy to the Coptic Pope Tawadros II. Mohamed Salah, captain of the Egyptian national football team, also tweeted his condolences.

This page was last updated at 2022-08-14 23:40 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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