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Egypt church fire: Officials say smoke, stampede killed most of the dead

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People attend a funeral ceremony for victims of the fire at the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Giza, Egypt, on Sunday. Flames tore through a packed crowd during morning services at the church near Cairo. Photo by Sayed Hassan/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/7b942bf4b65179b2370f7b9b56595206/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
People attend a funeral ceremony for victims of the fire at the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Giza, Egypt, on Sunday. Flames tore through a packed crowd during morning services at the church near Cairo. Photo by Sayed Hassan/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Egyptian authorities said on Monday that most of the deaths from a fire at a Coptic Christian church in Cairo were due to smoke inhalation the stampede of people rushing to get out.

At least 41 people died after the church caught fire on Sunday, including more than a dozen children between the ages of 5 and 13. The deaths also included Coptic Christian priest Abdel Maseeh Bakhit.

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The Egyptian Health Ministry noted the deaths related to smoke and the stampede in a tweet on Monday.

Egypt's Coptic Christian community has complained for years that government restrictions on construction, renovation and repair of churches have been part of a larger pattern of discrimination.

Firefighters are seen on Sunday at the church in the Imbaba district of Giza, Egypt, on Sunday. Photo by Khaled Kamel/EPA-EFE

Egyptian prosecutor Hamada el-Sawy said he's ordered an investigation into Sunday's fire.

A preliminary inquiry indicated that a backup generator on the second floor exploded when the building's electricity was turned back on. Worshipers had gathered inside the small room where the generator was located.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued directives to the Armed Forces Engineering Authority to restore and repair the church.

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"We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and pray for the injured and wounded, trusting that the hand of God will have mercy on us all," the Pope of Alexandria, Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, Tawadros II, said according to the Egypt Independent.

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