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15 children among 41 killed in fire, stampede in church in Cairo

CAIRO, Aug 15: Fifteen children were among 41 people killed in a fire in a church in Cairo caused reportedly by electric short circuit on Sunday morning. Fourteen others were injured in the stampede as the fire blocked the entrance to the multi-storey building. The fire broke out at 9 am.

The morning services were going on in a packed Coptic Orthodox church in Egypt's Capital when the blaze started. Several trapped congregants jumped from upper floors to their death. Weeping mothers waited outside for a word about their children trapped inside the inferno.

Five thousand worshippers had gathered for mass at the Coptic Abu Sefein church in the Imbaba neighbourhood near Cairo.

Caught in the smoke, people gathering on the third and fourth floors of the four-storey building rushed to go down the stairs and started falling on top of each other while the fire spread from the second floor.

The bodies, including of 15 children killed, were all found charred after the fire fighters doused the blaze.

The blaze started in an air conditioner in the building's second story, officials said.

The church is located in a narrow street in a densely populated neighborhood in Cairo. Sunday is the first working day of the week in Cairo, leading to traffic jams.

Sunday's blaze is one of the worst fire tragedies in recent years. Egypt has poor fire safety standards. Regulations are not enforced. In March last, a fire at a garment factory near the city killed 20 people.

Christians constitute 10% of the nation's more than 103 million people and have long complained of discrimination by the Muslim majority.

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