Fire breaks out at El Gouna Film Festival site in Egypt

Annual event near Red Sea will go ahead as planned on Thursday, organisers said

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A fire engulfed part of El Gouna film festival's main plaza, a day before the event's opening ceremony.

Ambulances and fire engines were heard rushing to the area at around 11.40am local time on Wednesday. The fire appeared to have been extinguished by 12.10pm. Egypt's Assistant Minister of Health Dr Khalid Mujahid said that 20 ambulances were sent to the scene.

Organisers of the festival on the Red Sea coast told The National it would go ahead as planned from Thursday to October 22.

“The fire devoured a small part of the hall intended for the opening of the festival. Immediately after the fire, the festival management contacted the Civil Protection Forces, who drove the fire trucks in co-operation with the fire services of the El Gouna project to control the fire,” organisers said in a statement.

It said festival management had opened an investigation into the incident.

Egypt's health ministry said 14 citizens suffered smoke inhalation, eight were taken to hospital and six were treated on-site. The clean-up began shortly after the fire was put out. Several large pieces of wood fell into the surrounding water and a large corner of the square-shaped plaza was charred and filled with debris.

Samih Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Development Holding — which owns the site where the fire started — said it may have been caused by an electrical issue.

The plaza was completed in November 2019 and was the site of the fourth annual El Gouna Film Festival.

A press conference scheduled for later in the evening to mark the start of the festival was expected to go ahead as scheduled, but at a different venue.

This year's festival is expected to show a total of 75 international and regional feature narratives, short films and feature documentaries from 44 countries.

Updated: October 14, 2021, 7:58 AM