At least 40 people — most of them children — have died in a fire in a Coptic Orthodox church in Giza Governorate, Egypt, on Sunday, according to government and church officials.
Thirty-five children between two and six years of age were among the victims of the blaze that ripped through the Church of Saint Mercurius (known in Arabic as Abu Sefein), reported ACI MENA, CNA’s partner agency for the Middle East and Northern Africa.
The cause of the blaze has so far not been established. Reuters reported that an electrical fire broke out at the church where people gathered during the Divine Liturgy celebration. The blaze reportedly blocked the exit from the church and caused a stampede.
The parish priest, Fr. Abdul Masih Bakhit, also died during the fire.
The injured were transferred to Imbaba General Hospital and Agouza General Hospital after 30 ambulances attended the scene.
The Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II, offered condolences to the families of the victims, according to a media statement, saying: “We are following with sorrow the tragic incident that occurred this morning in the Church of the Great Martyr Mercurius Abo Sefein in the Imbabah Airport area, north of Giza.”
“As we offer our condolences to the victims’ families, we pray for the injured and wounded, trusting that the hand of God will have mercy on us all.”
Offering his condolences to the head of the Coptic Church in Egypt, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said his thoughts were with “the families of the innocent victims that have passed on to be with their Lord in one of his houses of worship.”