One dead and dozens injured as fire engulfs police complex in Egypt’s Ismailia

Part of building collapsed after the blaze, civil defence sources say

Ismailia's security directorate building was totally gutted in the fire. EPA
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A senior police officer was killed and at least 38 other people were injured when a fire erupted at a police complex in the Egyptian Suez Canal city of Ismailia early on Monday.

The 10-storey building was fully staffed with police officers at the time of the fire, which broke out before dawn.

A security official identified the man who was killed as Lt Col Mohammed Refaat Labdah. The official gave no other details.

The fire raged through the building that was completely obscured by a cloud of smoke before firefighters contained the blaze several hours later, police officials said.

Authorities said army aircraft played a part in putting out the fire.

Video footage posted online after the fire was doused showed the building gutted.

Civil defence sources said parts of the building, which had undergone major renovation about six years ago, had collapsed.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately known.

Ismailia lies about 100km east of the capital Cairo, along the middle reaches of the Suez Canal.

Officials said that Interior Minister Mahmoud Tawfiq, who is in charge of the country's police force, rushed to the scene of the blaze.

He ordered an investigation and a review of the building's structure to determine the scope of the repair work needed.

The Prosecutor General's Office said it had questioned 33 of those injured as part of an inquiry into the cause of the fire. All of those interviewed were being treated in two hospitals in the area, it said.

Egypt's Health Ministry said 50 ambulances were sent to treat the injured at the scene and to take the more seriously hurt to hospital.

Fatal fires are not uncommon in Egypt, where fire codes are rarely enforced and emergency services are often slow to arrive. But Monday's fire at the security directorate of Ismailia received additional attention because of the ferocity of the fire and the significance of the building.

There is a security directorate complex in the capital of each of Egypt's 27 provinces. They are routinely heavily protected and ringed by concrete blast barriers manned by armed policemen.

In August 2022, a fire caused by a short circuit killed 41 worshippers in a Cairo church, prompting calls to improve the country's infrastructure and the response time of the fire brigade.

In March 2021, more than 20 people died in a fire at a textile factory in the capital, while in 2020, two hospital fires killed 14 people.

One of Egypt's deadliest fires was in 2002 when at least 360 people died after several carriages of a train travelling from Cairo to the southern city of Aswan caught fire.

Updated: October 02, 2023, 4:11 PM