Egypt: Anger after fire that killed 41 people in a church in Cairo

Egypt: Anger after fire that killed 41 people in a church in Cairo

After the fire that killed 41 people at a Coptic church in Cairo, witnesses to the tragedy on Monday pointed the finger at Egyptian authorities, who are accused of taking more than an hour to close, despite the official version react.

This short-circuit fire broke out in the middle of a mass at the Abou Sifine church, tucked into a narrow alley in Imbaba, a densely populated working-class neighborhood on the left bank of the Nile. According to the authorities and the Egyptian Coptic Church, 41 people died and 14 others were injured.

Anger at neighborhood residents then spread to social media after several witnesses protested the slowness of rescue workers, who arrived “an hour and a half” later, with Egyptians chastising the authorities’ “negligence” and demanding justice.

The suffocated victims

According to a press release from Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, “paramedics were notified of the fire at 8:57 a.m.” and the first ambulance “arrived at the scene at exactly 8:59 a.m.,” which witnesses refute. “No, the ambulance didn’t arrive in two minutes,” Mina Masry told AFP. “If they had come in time, they could have saved people.”

And this is especially because the victims died of suffocation and not burned, according to the Egyptian public prosecutor’s office, who noted “the absence of visible injuries”.

According to local residents, people braved the flames and smoke to rescue the children themselves.

“Everyone carried the children out of the building,” said neighbor Ahmed Reda Baioumy. “But the fire grew and it was not possible to return to it several times, at the risk of being suffocated. According to him, firefighters were “embarrassed” by the narrowness of the street where the church is located.

Witness to the tragedy, Sayed Toufik, describes difficult scenes: “Some threw themselves out of the windows to escape the fire, breaking their backs”.


In a video posted live to Facebook, Moha El Harra, who “lost his cousin’s son,” also blames rescue workers. “I’m from this part of town, I know the ambulance could have been there in three minutes, it took them an hour and a half,” the young man accuses.

“We just want justice to be done. The local ambulance, fire department, civil defense, everyone must be held accountable,” he added.

The slowness of rescue and firefighting services is not unique, especially since Egypt, with its ailing and poorly maintained infrastructure, regularly experiences deadly fires in its various provinces.

While authorities have not confirmed how many children died, AFP journalists who attended Sunday’s funeral saw several children’s coffins. Local media released a list from Cairo’s Imbaba Hospital with the identities of ten children under the age of 16 who died.

A church caught fire in Heliopolis, a wealthy district in eastern Cairo, on Monday, but no one was killed or injured.

The Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, accounting for 10 to 15 of Egypt’s 103 million Muslim majority.