Egypt reports another church fire caused by electrical issues

This is the third such incident at an Egyptian church since Sunday, leading to conspiracy theories on social media

People stand outside the Anba Bishoy Church after a fire broke out, in New Minya governorate, Egypt, on Tuesday. The fire, which reportedly broke out due to an electrical short circuit, occurred two days after a blaze at the Abu Sefein Coptic Church in Giza killed 41 people. EPA
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A massive fire destroyed a church in the Egyptian province of Minya on Tuesday, only days after another fire at a Coptic church in the capital killed 41.

The fire at the Anba Bishoy Church, 273 kilometres south of Cairo, involved no casualties but badly damaged much of the building's structure.

The cause of the fire was an electrical issue, Egypt’s interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The country’s prosecutor-general said that an investigation into the incident had been launched and that eyewitnesses had been interviewed.

“God protect the nation,” the prosecution’s statement read.

The church said that exact losses from the fire had not yet been ascertained, but videos showed tremendous damage to the structure as dozens of onlookers watched.

The interior ministry said the fire had been quickly dealt with and that “due legal measures” were being undertaken, without providing details.

The incident is the third such event in Egypt since Sunday when a massive blaze at the Abu Seifein Church in the Greater Cairo district of Giza killed 41, 18 of whom were children, and injured 14 others.

Then on Monday, the Anba Moussa Al Aswad Church in the satellite city of 6th October near Cairo, reported an issue with a faulty electricity board inside the building. The electricity board was reportedly seen emitting sparks during a service.

The church said that no damage had been caused and no one was injured. It thanked the police for their speedy response to the incident.

The string of fires caused by electrical issues has spawned a hashtag, which was one of Egypt’s top social media trends on Tuesday.

Many people said that the fires are too much of a coincidence to be merely down to chance. They pointed out that all the fires happened at churches, a quintessential symbol of the country’s Coptic minority, and that they were all caused by electrical issues.

Many people have also noted the fires coincided with the ninth anniversary of a forcible dispersal of Islamist protesters by the Egyptian military on August 14, 2013. This was a significant event for the country’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, members of whom were killed during clashes with the military at the time.

“The fact that the church fire happened on the anniversary of the dissolution of the Rabaa protests is something to take note of here,” wrote Twitter user Nashaat Samir.

Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, the country’s highest Coptic patriarch, on Monday warned against hearsay and rumours. He urged people to accept that Sunday's tragedy was nobody’s fault and to merely allow the families to grieve.

The pope also responded to negligence claims from members of the Coptic community, who said that firefighters took over an hour to arrive at the burning structure. He said he had the utmost faith that the state did all it could and that the delay in response was because of how narrow the streets in the area are and how densely populated it is.

Updated: August 17, 2022, 11:17 AM