At least 41 people have reportedly been killed in a fire at a church near Egypt’s capital, Cairo.

The number of dead was announced by the country’s Coptic Church, citing health officials.

Fourteen other people were reportedly injured.

An electrical fire broke out as 5,000 worshippers gathered for mass at the Coptic Abu Sifin church in the Imbaba neighbourhood, sources told the Reuters news agency.

The fire blocked an entrance to the church, causing a stampede, they said, adding that most of those killed were children.

“People were gathering on the third and fourth floor, and we saw smoke coming from the second floor,” said Yasir Munir, a worshipper at the church.

“People rushed to go down the stairs and started falling on top of each other.

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“Then we heard a bang and sparks and fire coming out of the window,” he said, saying he and his daughter were on the ground floor and able to escape.

The interior ministry said it received a report of the fire at 9am local time and the blaze broke out in an air conditioner in the building’s second story.

A view of the damage at the Abu Sifin church where a deadly fire broke out in Giza, Egypt, August 14, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
A view of the damage at the church

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi spoke by phone with the Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II to offer his condolences, the president’s office said.

“I am closely following the developments of the tragic accident,” el-Sissi wrote on Facebook.

“I directed all concerned state agencies and institutions to take all necessary measures, and immediately to deal with this accident and its effects.”

Sunday’s blaze is one of the worst fire tragedies in recent years in a country where safety standards and fire regulations are poorly enforced.

In March last year, a fire at a garment factory near Cairo killed at least 20 people and injured 24 more.

14 August 2022, Egypt, Gize: People inspect the scene where a massive fire broke out during a Sunday service at the Abu Sefein Coptic church in Giza. At least 41 people have died and dozens were severely injured after a mass fire broke out at the Coptic church. Photo by: Mahmoud El-Khawas/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
People inspect the scene of the fatal blaze. Pic: AP

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