It’s unclear how many children died in the Abu Sefain church fire, but Coptic Church spokesperson Archbishop Moussa Ibrahim said it was crowded with worshipers attending Sunday mass. There was a priest among the people, he said.
At least two police officers and three members of the civil protection service were injured in the blaze, Egypt’s interior ministry said in a Facebook post.
The fire started around 9:00 am local time and was caused by an electrical failure in an air conditioning unit on the second floor of the church, according to a statement.
Most of the casualties were caused by smoke inside church classrooms after the blackout, the interior ministry said.
Church officials also believe the fire was accidental, Ibrahim said. Coptic communities and churches in Egypt have historically been targets of religious-based violence and attacks, with persecution and discrimination surging since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s government in 2011.
Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church said, “We are in constant contact with the local authorities and the Ministry of Health,” according to a church spokesperson.
Mariam Malak, 23, told CNN she left the church just before the fire started.
“I left church after mass on Sunday and was on my way to work when my mother called me. She thought I was caught in a fire. [the] A burning church. I missed it by just a few minutes.
“Everyone there, including my father Abdel Masi, who led the prayers this morning, and many family members and friends, have ascended to Heaven. We are now trying to identify them all.” ‘ she said.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi offered condolences to the victims of a church fire.
“My heart goes out to the families of the innocent victims who have moved to the side of the Lord in one of the chapels,” El Sisi said.
Egypt’s president said he was closely following the development of the “tragic accident” and had instructed state agencies and agencies to take the necessary steps to immediately address the tragedy and provide care to the injured. rice field.
Egyptian footballer Mo Salah, who plays for Liverpool and is captain of the national team, also sent a message of support to those affected by the tragedy on Sunday, tweeting: We sincerely hope that the injured will recover as soon as possible. ”