At least 41 dead in Coptic church blaze in Egypt (Ld)

At least 41 people have died in a fire at a Coptic church in Giza near Cairo, the Health Ministry of Egypt said on Sunday.

The fatalities were due to thick smoke and a stampede triggered by the blaze, Health Minister Khalid Abdul Ghafar said in a statement, dpa news agency reported.

Fourteen others were injured in the fire at the Abo Sefein Church in the city of Giza. Twelve are still in hospitals, while two others have been discharged.

The Coptic Church said a large blaze broke out during a morning mass service on Sunday.

The fire was due to a faulty electric circuit caused by an air conditioner in the church building, the Interior Ministry said.

The blaze was later brought under control, the ministry added in a statement. Five civil defence personnel were injured in the incident.

Images in the Egyptian media showed the facade of the church partially blackened out due to the fire that gutted parts of the building’s interior.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi offered condolences to the Coptic Pope Tawadros II, the presidency said.

Egypt has the largest Christian community in the Middle East, accounting for around 10% of the country’s mostly Muslim population of more than 100 million.

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