At least 40 people have died and dozens were injured after a fire broke out at a Coptic church in the city of Giza, near Cairo, Egypt.
The tragedy happened at around 9 a.m. local time, when around 5,000 worshippers gathered at the Abu Sifin church for Sunday Mass.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said that the blaze was caused by a faulty air-conditioning unit on the second floor of the building, according to the Associated Press.
Smoke inhalation was the primary cause of the deaths and injuries, as per the ministry’s announcement.
Other sources add that the fire reportedly blocked an entrance and led to a stampede, as panic prevailed.
Many people were crushed during a desperate scramble to escape, according to the BBC.
Several of the victims were believed to be children, because the building also houses a nursery, the Daily Mail says.
The Abu Sifin blaze is one of the worst fire tragedies in recent years in Egypt, where Christians account for some 10% of the nation’s more than 103 million people.
“I offer my sincere condolences to the families of the innocent victims that have passed on to be with their Lord in one of his houses of worship,” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi wrote in a tweet Sunday.
In another social media post, Egypt’s head of state said he was closely following the developments of the tragic accident and directed all concerned state agencies and institutions to take all necessary measures to immediately deal with its effects.
Greece’s condolences to Egypt for church fire victims
“Deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life in a fire at a church in Giza, Egypt,” the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted on its official Twitter account.
“Our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and wishes for a swift recovery to the injured. At this difficult time, Greece stands in full solidarity with our close friends the people and government of Egypt,” it added.